“riots” is a racist term

Welp things are stressful. Stressful and scary. Literally everything. COVID. Mass unemployment. The frequency with which Black people are murdered by police. How even the most irrefutable evidence doesn’t result in justice–or at least accountability (as Brittany Packnett Cunningham would say). How peaceful demonstration is met with violence. And how, once met with violence, that protest can become violent. That’s when they become riots. The Stonewall Riot. The LA Riot. 6 years ago I wrote about Ferguson after the slaying of Mike Brown and how, when we frame these responses as riots, we reduce them to stressful and scary things without also contextualizing them as deliberate and considered acts of protest, and of resistance to state violence—police violence, lack of judicial accountability, institutionalized racism, systemic income inequality. Just because something is stressful and scary doesn’t make it unjust. In fact, we have terms for actions that are both violent and just: rebellion, revolt, revolution. What’s happening in Minneapolis is a direct response to what happened to George Floyd. And what happened to Breonna Taylor. And Tony McDade. And Mike Brown. And Sandra Bland. And Eric Garner. And Tamir Rice. And Treyvon Martin. And Freddie Gray. And Philando Castile. And Alton Sterling. What’s happening is scary and its also an expression of collective anguish and rage. Its a rebellion. Its a revolt.

#JusticeForGeorgeFloyd
#BreonnaTaylor
#saytheirnames
#BlackLives Matter

Image post from @BLACKPRIDE_BLM

Posted in #blacklivesmatter, intersectionality, politics, race, society, violence

I wrote a book!

I wrote a book! It was terrible. The book is not terrible. Writing a book, holy crap, that’s a lot. It has a kick ass cover:

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Yes indeed that’s Dragula season 3 winner Landon Cider, I used to go see him perform in LA.

Its about drag! Theatrical gender-bending! Doing weird stuff onstage! Curse words!

More specifically its about how we talk about and analyze drag and how that just doesn’t cut it because of how diverse and broad the genre is. I get into stuff people don’t automatically think of when they hear the word drag—women performing femme acts, butch acts that aren’t male impersonations, sexless mythical characters created by civil rights groups—and explain why these acts are doing the same work as other drag acts. I also look at more conventional drag like variety and vaudevillian male impersonation to demonstrate how our conventional understanding of drag leads to oversimplifying their methods and impacts.

TL;DR: Drag is complicated! Our words and analysis have to be complicated too! Drag is cooler than we think because its weirder than we think!

Don’t just take my word for it, check it out on NBC News “10 LGBTQ books to watch out for in 2020.”
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You can also check my celebrity endorsements (well, academic endorsements, they’re celebrities to me!) and book synopsis and maybe buy one (or ask your university library to purchase one for their stacks) from Amazon and Indiana University Press!

Posted in books, culture, feminism, gender, gender-bending, intersectionality, popular culture, queer, race, society

I know about Ballroom and Pose Gets it Right

*Spoilers for Pose season 2*

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When a student told me FX was making a soapy drama about 1980s Ballroom culture, I was not here for it. Then I heard Ryan Murphy was overseeing the project. The last White gay person who crafted a commercial Ballroom narrative—Paris is Burning director Jennie Livingston—got dragged for a directorial vision that reduced Ballroom from a complex community ritual to a dazzling neoliberal spectacle for White masses. There’s certainly no consensus about whether Livingston done right or wrong, my point is that making an accurate, holistic representation of Ballroom that is also uplifting and respectful is hard, especially when outsiders are involved.

Good news: Pose fucking nails it. I don’t mean everything is totally accurate. I question the time frame for some of the voguing  (vogue is broken up by Old and New Way, and some moves are pretty New Way). I’m also leery of how often “realness” reflects a contemporary usage popularized by RuPaul’s Drag Race rather than the more traditional ballroom meaning of heteronormative passability. But every time I watch Pose, I thank the writers, directors, producers, and actors for delivering nuanced narratives and storylines that avoid hackneyed tropes without looking away from hard realities. I also love how Ballroom is represented with skill, aplomb, and respectful historical accuracy. Here’s how Pose does Ballroom representation well.

1. Paris easter eggs. Released in 1990, the documentary Paris is Burning was the only real ballroom text for decades. And the people in that film—especially their statements, lewks, jokes, and ball work—have become pop culture touchstones. Even if you don’t know the documentary, I promise you’ve heard some of the lines, especially if you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. Pose season 2 has some v satisfying call backs to Paris. For example, the ep. 8 scene of Angel and Blanca dancing down the beach looks very much like Carmen and Brooke Xtravagena doing the same:

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Angel’s ep. 2 entry into the modeling world visually and narratively parallels Octavia St. Laurent’s experience at the Eileen Ford model agency cattle-call search. Damon booking a European tour with Malcolm McLaren echoes Willie Ninja’s mention of dancing for Malcolm McLaren. Even the two young homeless teens palling around outside a Ball in ep. 10 evoke the unnamed young teens Livingston interviewed.

 

 

2. IN ADDITION to these Paris touchstones, Pose extends its connection by referencing non-filmed aspects of the people in the documentary. This is most poignant in ep. 3 where Electra and Co. “cocoon” a White businessman who accidentally died at Electra’s BDSM establishment. The drastic steps they take to wrap and pack his body in a trunk (which Electra will keep for the rest of her life) is framed as safer than trusting the police or the criminal justice system. Just in case some watchers are not up on their Paris lore, Pose explicitly telegraphs the connection by ending with a quote from Dorian Corey, one of the most iconic figures in Paris Is Burning, and known for offering a complex and empathetic narrative voice that levels out Livingston’s depiction of Ballroom life as triumph and flash. If you research anything about Paris, you will immediately find articles about Corey’s death or, more specifically, what was found in Corey’s closet (you know what’s coming): a partially mummified body in the fetal position wrapped in naugahyde (just like on Pose). The estimate is that this body had been with Corey at least 20 years. While details are hazy, two common beliefs are that Corey shot a home invader or an abusive lover in self-defense. Corey clearly made the decision that it was safer to live with this body forever than go to the police and trust the criminal justice system. The Pose episode ends with Electra ruminating about the emotional and physical responsibility she now carries, but never does the show question the ethics of her final decision. Like Corey, we are asked to remember the unbearably unjust price a person such as Electra would pay for doing what society would consider “the right thing.”

3. Pose also fills in important details that Paris has been critiqued for dropping. The only real reference to Ballroom history in Paris is Corey’s mention of how Balls grew from 1950s and 1960s drag queen pageants. But in Pose ep. 1, when the girls discuss the history of Balls, Electra says “Crystal LaBeija lost one too many titles to White girls.” The founder and first mother of the House of LaBeija, Crystal, developed the House and Ball scene as an alternative to the White-dominated drag queen pageants she participated in and hated. There’s a old documentary called The Queen (1968), which is a rather dull depiction of drag queen contestants in the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest. The jewel of this film comes during the last few minutes: Crystal, who placed fourth, lets us know that she has FUCKING HAD IT with the racist beauty standards and winner selection process.

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So what does Crystal do about it? Oh just heads the formation of Ballroom as an alt performance scene for queer Black and Brown people. In the next episode of Pose, when Electra tries to recruit Tess for her House of Wintour, Tess responds “ain’t no White girls in Ballroom.” While there were White people in Ballroom (Corey was one), this statement reinforces the previous allusion to Crystal. In short, Pose communicates how Ballroom is designed as a space for people who are not only marginalized by dominant culture, but by White queer culture as well.

Its also worth noting that in ep. 2 Pray Tell makes sure the children “know your history” by explaining how Paris DuPree invented voguing. You might not realize that Paris is Burning is named after Paris DuPree, and specifically a Ball Paris hosted called Paris is Burning. You might not know this because Livingston fails to name or identify Paris in the film, or make the explicit connection between the name of the film and Paris’s Ball.  Don’t be shocked but Livingston’s omissions didn’t sit well with Paris. Its poignant, then, that Pose not only names Paris, but makes Paris visible within the history and lore of Ballroom.

4. Pose deals with real Ballroom people and shit. The ep. 10 storyline touches on how the Ball management structure (Electra, Lulu, and Angel reference the MCs–also called Commentators–and the judging panel) is dominated by men, and how there is a circumscribed amount of “femme queen” categories.

a) Let me first draw your attention to the aforementioned judging panel. Plz note the judge in the center—the one that hands out all the trophies.

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That’s just José FUCKING Xtravaganza, a legendary ballroom performer. You might know José from his feature in Icona Pop’s “Up All Night” music video, which recreates a Ball event. Or maybe if you’re deep in like me, you can spot his 3-second cameo in Paris is Burning—he’s one of the teen voguers. Or maybe you know his story because its Damon and Ricky’s dream: José became a backup dancer for Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour.

b) Let me now draw your attention to the issues discussed, because they’re real fucking Ballroom issues. In his excellent ethnography Butch Queens Up in Pumps (2013), Marlon Bailey discusses how Houses might be governed by mothers but fathers often occupy more authoritative positions within the national ballroom structure. Moreover, virtually all MCs/Commentators are men, and, due to the lack of “women, butch, and femme queen” Ball categories, women, butches, and transgender people (WBT) had to create a separate micro Ball scene in the mid 2000s (224).

c) Let me finally draw your attention to how Pray Tell and the other masculine commentators address this gender issue: they all do drag. Maybe this seems like a quick fix, but the plot trajectory actually allows Pose to show one more more layer of Ballroom; while Ballroom scenes this season focus on realness, voguing, and house competitions, there’s a popular category called Butch Queens Up in Drags (Paris DuPree was actually a competitor in this category, as was another legendary House Mother, Pepper LaBeija).

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Behold Paris

The Pose Commentators say they want to perform as “butch queen up in drags first time at a Ball.” I don’t know if this subcategory always happens, but its a documented Ball category shown in Paris is Burning. Including this category in the Pose storyline helps us to see how truly multifarious Ballroom is.

Conclusion: fucking watch Pose. Its delightful.

Also learn more about Ballroom:
Marlon Bailey, Butch Queens Up in Pumps
Marlon Bailey, “Gender/Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture”
let me be real you should read anything by Marlon Bailey, he’s my ultimate professor crush
Jonathan David Jackson, “The Social World of Voguing”
bell hooks, “Is Paris Burning”
Judith Butler, “Gender is Burning”
My House (2018, Viceland)
Kiki (2016)
Paris is Burning (1990)
The Queen (1968)

 

 

Posted in culture, film, gender-bending, intersectionality, popular culture, queer, race, society | Tagged

RuPaul Realness: critically analyze the things you love

I love drag. I wrote a book about it. And I love to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race because it’s fun and queer and dazzling and fun. And queer.

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My all time fav Bianca Del Rio front and center

But not all queer and fun things are perfect, and Drag Race—like RuPaul herself—is no exception. There’s been the issue with RuPaul not fully welcoming trans performers or drag kings on the show. There’s been the issue with how more popular queens (the ones that do the best) are predominately White. There’s been the issue with how Drag Race tends to takes ritualistic and creative elements from underground and minority drag culture without credit, often transforming them into products that are both spectacle-like and devoid of their full cultural meaning (thanks bell hooks for the ritual vs spectacle framing!)

So I watched and coded seven seasons of Drag Race and then I wrote an article about how Drag Race uses “realness,” a term taken from ballroom culture. Ballroom is a performance scene designed and maintained mainly by poor queer people of Color. Check Paris is Burning for dets, or better yet the amazing Butch Queens up in Pumps by Marlon Bailey, or the already legendary FX series Pose). In the ballroom scene, realness names a very specific form of performance (appearing cisgender and heterosexual within the schema of class and race denoted by the category). It’s a term that speaks to the lived experiences of ballroom members within our heteronormative, capitalistic, White-centered world, and it’s also a term that identifies a form of agency ballroom members deploy to blend and thus protect themselves in hostile public areas.

On Drag Race, realness is none of those things. Its a piece of candy, a term that’s fun to say and identifies the fabulousness or success or outlandishness or cleverness of a particular lewk. Queens speak of doing “baby bear realness” (s7, ep6) when their outfit successfully makes them look like they were mauled to death, or “skunk Cinderella realness” (s6, ep7) to note the fierceness of their stripy-hair-and-ballroom-dress ensemble. Oh I got others:

  • Alien robotic venereal disease realness (s9, ep9)
  • Dead dog realness (s6, ep7)
  • X-men weird angel devil realness (s9, ep4)
  • Punk unicorn realness (s8, ep3)
  • eskimo style yeti ski fish realness (s10, ep4)
  • That’s my mama realness (s8, ep8)
  • Carnival pregnancy realness (s4, ep10)
  • real lion taming realness (s5, ep2)
  • Helen Keller drowning realness (no idea) (s5, ep1)

Realness is a bit of fun on Drag Race. But also Drag Race is a mass commercial product and rating powerhouse. And when the show uses realness with the frequency it does (in about 62% the episodes in a given season), its appropriating something from a minority subculture without credit, then commodifying it into a sellable product sans the meaning that’s so significant to the community that created the term.

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I love Drag Race, maybe you do too. But if we continue to love it, we’ll have to do so with our eyes wide open. Check my article, “RuPaul Realness: The Neoliberal Resignifcation of Ballroom Discourse” here in Social Semiotics if you or your university has access to Taylor & Francis journal publications, or contact me personally if you don’t.

And remember, if you can’t love [analyzing things that are entertaining to] yourself, how in the hell you gonna [be critical of when people] love anything else.

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Posted in academia, culture, gender-bending, popular culture, queer, reality TV, society, television

Why Wouldn’t There Be More Than Two Genders?

“Student Ejected for Telling Prof There are only 2 Genders,” says Fox News segment.

Behold a college senior telling Tucker Carlson about being forced to apologize and receive critique from classmates after he insisted there are only two genders. The student seems most upset about the treatment he says he received in class and Carlson appears most upset by the idea that any person would believe there are more than two genders. I wasn’t in the class so I can’t comment on what was taught or what transpired. That’s actually not the most concerning part to me (although appropriate classroom behavior from both students and professors is critical). What bothers me is that neither the student nor Carlson seems to know the basic concepts of gender.

Today Saucies, I’ll elucidate these basic concepts. It’s no problem really, I teach this in the first two weeks of my introductory course. But I also want to talk about my larger concern: not that Carlson and the student expressed a difference from my own evidence-backed position, but rather that they expressed distain for learning about these concepts in the first place. This is different from having distain for the concept itself. It’s having distain for knowledge.

1) Carlson and the student believe there are only two genders and their evidence is biologists, biology, science, and biology! Male and female, as Carlson says. Welp, that’s not gender. That’s sex, which is the term we use to explain how science and biology categorize certain bodily differences. So first let’s talk sex: there are more than two. How do I know? Because biology and science notes the existence of intersex bodies. Intersex bodies do not fully adhere to the genital, gonadal, hormonal, and chromosomal criteria medicine uses to assign either male or female sex to bodies, and estimates range as high as 1 in every 250-500 people are born intersex. So yes, there is clear biological evidence that there are more than just male and female bodies. We have two sex categories and also many people whose biology does not snugly fit either category. Up until very recently, we also had a habit of surgically or hormonally altering those bodies to fit our two-sex criteria and also asking parents to keep their children’s intersex status secret. But intersex people exist (have always existed). Perhaps you might take the position that we should continue medically altering these bodies to fit into our sex categories. But that argument doesn’t negate the biological existence of intersex bodies.

2) Let’s talk about gender. It’s a culturally constructed way we understand and organize difference. This is not my opinion, it’s a fact based on scores of peer-reviewed and evidence-based work from scientists that study human organization. Gender is a product of society, even if we feel the purpose of gender is to organize biological phenomena. We gender intersex bodies when we assign them a male or female sex because we’re fitting them into a cultural standard that’s not biologically determined for them. We also gender male and female bodies when we put one in pink and the other in blue, or say one is a better listener and the other better at sports. These are strange and arbitrary cultural divisions that appear to be attached to a biological imperative but are not. How do I know? Well, we used to put boys in pink before World War I because the color was bold and manly and blue was delicate and dainty. In some cultures it’s masculine to have long hair and in others short hair. In some cultures women wear skirts and in other cultures men wear similar garments called kilts. In contemporary western society, we have two genders (man and woman) that are supposed to reflect the two biological sexes (male and female). But the specific standards that define those gender categories changes as culture changes. Perhaps you might take the position that there is the best way or most normal way to order gender around bodies. But that argument doesn’t negate the fact that gender is produced by society, and that other societies do gender differently.

3) Let’s talk about non-western gender. Carlson lists several other genders beyond the two he knows, and he includes Two Spirit and Hijra. These are non-western gender identities. That is to say, they were produced in a society that is different than the one that Carlson lives in. If gender is constructed and if gender rules vary by culture, then why would we assume that all societies everywhere constructed a two gender system just the way we did? Wouldn’t it be equally plausible that other cultures might construct gender in different ways and with different meanings that lead to more than two? Actually, many did and we have scores of evidence-based anthropology, sociology, and history scholarship that proves the existence of these other genders. Perhaps you might take the position that these were deviant identities or that they are not as good as the western gender system. But that argument doesn’t negate the existence of these other genders; their existence is a reality.
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4) Let’s go back to western gender. Carlson says a bit mockingly that some people believe there are “infinite genders.” And why can’t there be? If gender is constructed by culture and other cultures have constructed gender beyond two, why can’t we also do that? The notion that there are two distinct genders that should correspond to the two assigned sexes might always be the dominant model in the west. But why couldn’t we produce something else too? We could, we would just have to bend the dominant cultural rules. And agender, genderfluid, and trans people are doing that. Perhaps you might take the position that we should not do this. But that argument doesn’t negate the fact that we could and are.

The “perhaps” arguments I constructed here are contrary to my own beliefs and I think they’re pretty ethnocentric and cruel too. But these are certainly salient positions one might take if they knew the basics of the topic they were discussing. That is to say, these would be educated arguments.

The worst part of the Fox segment is when Carlson asks the student to explain a term introduced in his class—mansplaining—and the student hedges, finally saying “I’m not sure… I think it’s anytime a man speaks really.” I would understand the student being angry if that was what the term means but it doesn’t. He doesn’t know the defintion because he didn’t learn the definition. Carlson asks if terms like mansplaining are measurable according to a “species of social sciences” and the student responds no. But they are. The student is angry, yes, but at what exactly? Does he know the definitions, information, or evidence around the concepts he is against? I assume that since he was introduced to these concepts as part of a college course, he did have the opportunity to learn them.

Once, a student wrote a very negative evaluation of my course, calling it bullshit and postmodern trash. The student then backed this claim by outlining several theories and readings we had covered and arguing why the ideas could have been useful and transformative but are ultimately not. It was, frankly, one of the most affirming evaluations I ever received. I don’t agree with the student but the student produced a coherent argument by weighing the value of materials they had a full and accurate understanding of. My goal is not to indoctrinate students or push a personal agenda. It’s to teach basic concepts that exist in the world so that students can make their own educated decisions. Do I hope those decisions are ethical and empathetic? Yes. But the bottom line is to build a foundation for them to do that work themselves.

The denouement of the Fox segment is Carlson encouraging the student to drop out of college. Not to learn the concepts more fully so as to better refute them. Not to practice honing counter rhetoric based on knowledge and evidence. The topic of the clip is terrible but there is nothing so terrible as Carlson’s advice to quit learning, to remain ignorant of the basic components of issues.

Stay in school kids. Learn how to tell your professors they teach postmodern trash with irrefutable and informed style.
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Posted in #MediaGettingItWrong, academia, classroom, culture, gender, politics, society

Is today a great day or THE GREATEST DAY? VOTE HELLER FOR CAT CONTEST!

Everything is a perpetual dumpster fire, we all get that. But today I found out I was selected for entry to a CAT CONTEST YES I KNOW.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2SFS9BM
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I entered  annual “Academics With Their Cats” contest . YES I’M THAT PERSON. Please vote for me because I’m untenured so this is literally the most important milestone in my academic career.

Orange Cat and I are on the last voting page, I look stunning in my white kitty collar and Max looks stunned she has to pose for anything not food.

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VOTE FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOW!!! 

Posted in academia, cats, social media

Feminist Media Studies Checklist: the Young Adult Novel Edition

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Gird yourselves for (yet another) rant about my best frenemy, the Young Adult adventure novel. As you may remember from my least popular blog posts, I read YA literature for fun. The kind where a young female protagonist lives in a fantasy or dystopic world and goes on some sort of physically taxing adventure. You know, your standard Hunger Games or Divergent fare. I like these books mainly because I like the heroine: she’s strong and clever and brave and talented. She’s a survivor and generally the adventure she goes on helps her friends or family, often also her town or kingdom.

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yes I’m back with this shit again

YA books with this type of heroine seem pretty feminist-leaning, but they’re not always. A good amount of the time, the feministy heroine is plunked into a storyline that subtly normalizes racist and sexist cultural standards, and gives a pass to patriarchal gender relations. Only she doesn’t know it, and I suspect neither do the authors. (I hope) most people don’t create media with the intent of replicating the shittier parts of our cultural system. But what ends up happening is that the awesome heroine–a figure that is highly identifiable and consumable to many young adult women–accepts, responds to, and does pretty well in this kinda messed up world.

We in the feminist media studies biz spend a great deal of time illuminating how media producers create seemingly great media that roundabout perpetuates racist, sexist, and heterosexist ideologies. Laura Mulvey described how women’s bodies are positioned in films (for instance, every Hitchcock film) as sex objects to be desired and consumed by both the male protagonist and the audience that gazes at her through the point-of-view of the male protagonist. bell hooks analyzed how Paris is Burning director Jennie Livingston took an important cultural ritual in the lives of poor queer people of Color and presented it as an entertaining spectacle that White audiences laughed at. In both cases, well-intentioned content creators ultimately created a sexist and racist product because they were not careful with how they crafted their media world.

Alison Bechdel developed a simple rubric for gauging if a film creates a relevant context for women. Does the film have 1) two or more women; 2) that talk to each other; 3) about things other than a man.
h96uRThis test does not evaluate if the film is good, progressive, or feminist. It simply highlights the world of the film in regards to women characters and their holistic value to the plot.

I’ve started my own checklist for the YA novel with a female protagonist. It doesn’t identify if the book is good or even if its feminist. It only evaluates if the world under the heroine’s coat of shiny female empowerment perpetuates sexism, racism, or oppressive heterosexual gender roles.

Ok, the heroine is cool as fuck but…

1) Are there other women around too, or is the heroine mainly surrounded by male figures that are unique and complex like her? If there are other women, are they mainly a) evil queens; b) calculating mothers; c) vapid social climbers; or d) false friends/betrayers? Follow up: did the protagonist have a really great female friend who died or left, conveniently leaving her in need of a new essential partnership?

2) Speaking of the male love interest… Does he sometimes override the heroine’s own self-determination for reasons he feels are valid but she has told him are not? Is he at one point extremely physically or verbally cruel but frames it as something he must do to keep her away from worse danger? When she is in a situation of power over him, does he find ways to carve out power by withholding affection or abandoning her? Does she assume these actions are not because he is a dick but because she is not desirable or has made some type of capital relationship mistake?

3) Does the heroine gets some kind of makeover (in discord with her overall character) and her body is then marked by the male love interest, male friends, or others though stares or comments about her beauty? Does this serve to imply she is more beautiful in feminine trappings than in the clothing/hairstyles she wears for hero tasks?

4) Is there a part where the heroine’s emotional weakness rather than her physical strength and talent becomes the focus? Is that emotional weakness framed as a marker of her realizing “real feelings” for the male love interest? Does he momentarily engage and then withdraw affection in ways that encourage this emotional disorder?

5) Is the heroine’s age clearly articulated as 16 or 17 [under the legal age of consent for the majority of the book’s readership] but the male love interest is ambiguously older or described as a mature adult male? Does this adult male love interest sometimes get really mad and punch the wall close to the teenage heroine’s head or body?

6) Are the sex scenes riddled with creepy phrases such as “he took her mouth” or he “desired to bed her” or whatever other things might seem old timey sexy but enforce his sexual dominance? Is the sexual content triggered by him lecturing/yelling at her for “bad” behavior, or soothing her about some body or emotional insecurity that she could have worked through on her own timeline but that he pushes her to disclose or deal with at his lead?

7) Is rape, sexual assault, or disempowering forms of sex work/prostitution brought up as a threat to the heroine’s physicality or honor but never addressed in terms of how sexual domination is a persistent means of dehumanizing and controlling all women? In other words, is sexual assault a scary shadow used to show the heroine’s ultimate bravery and strength, or is it something the heroine understands is a cultural method of gender oppression that must be dealt with on a larger scale?

8) The heroine probably takes on a masculine or men’s job, skill, or social position. Is she able to do so because everyone feels these gender rules are arbitrary and many women are of a like mind, or is it because she is unique and awesome among women and can do something other women don’t want to or just won’t?

9) And just so we’re not dirtbags ourselves, let’s note if the heroine is described with White features like red hair and pale skin. Oh she is, I’m so surprised. Ok, are all the other main characters described with similar features/skin/hair for no clear geographical reason? Is the only description of someone not White a minor character or group, and are they described as having “golden brown” skin?

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Posted in #MediaGettingItWrong, books, culture, film, gender, popular culture, postfeminist, sexiness, sexism, young adult | 1 Comment

Professor Werk, or, what do professors do like teach?

I’m heading back into the school year and I’m exhausted by all the work I’ve done this summer while not teaching. That’s not a joke, I worked all summer even though I didn’t teach any classes. People can be surprised at this because they see my job as all about teaching. I get that. Most people interact with professors on the front side; as students we see professors do werk by lecturing and leading classes and grading papers. I do that too. I like doing that. That’s a pretty affirming statement from a super introvert like me. In spite of my discomfort with freestyle lecturing, running open discussions, being stared at by forty students for seventy-five minutes, I feel like what I do in the classroom makes a difference. Students will say that what I taught them really changed how they see the world or gave them skills they will use forever. That’s pretty cool. I also get a lot of cat drawings, which is also cool.

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I literally had so many to choose from, you have no idea.

I like the front side. But I would argue that the front side—the teaching part—is a corollary of my actual job. The main thing professors do is create knowledge. I do this two ways.

Way #1: hey, do you like seat belts? What about Google? Heard the term intersectionality used to describe social injustice? All that shit was invented by professors. To be specific, professors thought up that shit, and then figured out a way to actualize it through research and experiments, and then explained it by writing it out clearly and supporting it with persuasive evidence. Then they sent it into the world and now we know!
maxresdefault.jpgPeople that are not professors can invent things at places that are not universities. But universities are locations where professors are paid to invent technology and ideas that could fundamentally alter cultural knowledges, add to society, change the world. When I got hired as a professor, it was with the understanding that I would teach for the university and also that I would think deeply and complexly about the world and its problems, come up with original and novel ideas, and put them into the world. Lest this sound like an easy deal, my knowledge output is measured and evaluated. In other words, professors have to prove that our thinking has led to original ideas and that original ideas have worth. How is such a thing proven? Through articles published in blind, peer-reviewed academic journals, by writing and publishing peer-reviewed books, presenting conference papers at national and international forums, being awarded grant funding, being invited to speak in various prestigious public forums… We have a fancy nihilist term for all this: publish or perish. I keep my job from year to year (and professors get tenured) by showing the material output of my thinking and also proving that a large body of my peers has deemed this output valuable.

Way #2: ok, so professors have to think up, write up, and publish up original knowledge. But the other way I create knowledge is by developing university curriculum. I don’t just teach classes, I work with my peers to grow fields of knowledge and then design curriculum that imparts key elements of those fields to students. When you take a class from a professor, you see the professor teach the content. But before you even get to this part, the professor has decided on the best texts to convey the content, on the units that best demonstrate the content, on the examples and keywords essential to the content. And they have also chosen the content itself. There are thousands of important ideas that make up my own field of Women’s and Gender Studies. My job is to know as much of that knowledge as I possibly can and then decide what parts are most important for students to learn and when they should learn them. When I get all that figured out, I then find texts and examples, write lessons, and design exercises that best convey my decisions. I trained for eleven years, which is the amount of years I spent getting my higher education degrees, to be able to do this. So I have a good background and good skills, but I could also draw on some pre-made resources like text readers and syllabus examples and activity banks. You know who came up with those readers, syllabi, and activity resources? Professors. And you know how I know they’re accurate? Because of my background and skills. In effect, my job is always to know about and sort through all the knowledge of a given field and then use my training to build a new set or unit of knowledge—a knowledgelet if you will—for students learning this field. I create the knowledge that exists in my field, and I create the units of knowledge that teach this field to others. And I grade papers too.

Lemmee wrap up by running some numbers. If you think that the whole of my job is teaching classes (as some human dumpster fire politicians have argued), then you must think being a professor is pretty easy because I don’t teach eight hours a day, forty hours a week. Actually, I teach four classes, twice a week and, at seventy-five minutes per class, that’s ten hours a week. Cool. If you had a forty-hour/week salaried job and one of the requirements was that you lead a staff meeting eight times a week, would you only be working when you were running those meetings? Or would you also be working when you came up with the topic of the meeting, collected materials, organized and wrote out your talking points, made visuals and handouts, sent out email reminders and agendas, and followed up with coworkers? Unless you’re in a really exploitative job, you probably get to count all this as part of your workweek. In fact, all this prep and these presentations might actually be a corollary of your actual job. That is, you got hired to do something in addition to these presentations, and you’re still responsible for doing and completing that something. If yer lucky, maybe you get to make some of your presentations overlap with this other part of your job. But probably not all eight, and probably not every week.

I teach, therefore I profess! Teaching is part of my job and it’s a great part and it’s the most visible part. But I also profess when I create knowledge and launch it out to the world. I don’t have summers off because that creating knowledge part is not contingent on me being in a classroom. Publish or perish doesn’t stop just because I am teaching more students or less students. I can do it anytime, and I do it all the time. This is a really hard and a really time consuming and a really important and a really crucial part of my job. Luckily, I trained a long time to do this work and, super luckily, I get paid to do it. Not everyone that makes knowledge gets paid for their labor. But professors do. It’s what we do.

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Posted in academia, culture, politics, society

Why the fuck should I even care about benevolent sexism?

I was walking down the right side of a sidewalk (as literally every sidewalk etiquette article insists is correct). A man was walking toward me and, as our game of sidewalk chicken escalated, he frenetically gestured for me to move over to the left. Why? Because, he said, “ladies walk on the inside.” I told him (yelled after him after I sheepishly moved aside) that was incorrect and sexist. He told me (yelled behind him as he walked away) that was absolutely NOT sexist. Perhaps he fancied it was 1850 and he was  putting the lady he was escorting on the protected part of the sidewalk. That was a thing, I guess, because gentlemen needed to guard ladies from the ruffian side of the sidewalk where carriages and horses and puddles dared to exist. I think sidewalk guy  was attempting to be gentlemanly by enforcing this old-fashioned gesture of female protection. But he was actually telling a woman what to do with her body, making her move around him in spite of contemporary norms, and disrespecting her space and wishes. So it was sexist. But it was benevolent sexism.

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Thank god I’m on the inside of the curb or else satan would be able to grab me!

Slight topic detour: Peggy McIntosh describes how she was taught from a young age to only identify racism in conscious individual acts of meanness. Of course, this type of racism does happen. But McIntosh says this image prevented her—a White woman—from noticing how racist practices and policies were also institutionalized, and then how her own unthinking, non-malicious everyday actions reinforced these systems. Even if someone is not being consciously racist and even if the correlation between that person’s actions and the subjugation of people of Color isn’t super clear, they can still be perpetuating racism by participating in and benefiting from racist systems. You see, intent is not the same as effect.

Is your idea of sexism a manager saying he doesn’t promote women because they’re too volatile during their times of the month? Of course, this type of sexism does happen. But we also participate in sexism via subtle everyday practices that cast women as less qualified, less capable, less valuable, less able, less worthy, less whole, or more naturally inclined toward roles like being sex objects or doing unpaid domestic and menial labor. Sometimes gestures that are intended as genteel or flattering ultimately replicate notions that women are lesser and—here’s the kicker—that a woman’s expressed will is less significant than a man’s beliefs or intentions. Enter benevolent sexism.

Classic example: a man holds a door for a woman. Is this sexist? NOT NECESSARILY INTERNET TROLLS. Holding the door for all people, especially people that need aid, can be super nice! In this scenario, the woman says “that’s ok, I can get it” and the door holder insists because he’s a gentleman and he always holds doors for ladies. But why always and only ladies? And why does he insist? Is it because he’s trying to be polite? Yes. It is because he’s trying to treat women in a flattering way? Yes. Is it because he thinks women should be held to a different standard when it comes to labor, even when the labor isn’t really laborious? Yes. Is it because he thinks his idea of chivalry outweighs the woman’s expressed wants? Yes. Ah, now we’ve slipped into sexism. Door guy’s insistence is based on a sexist belief that women are generally less capable and also that what men think is correct for women is more important than what women think is correct for themselves. It wasn’t intended to be sexist, but the effect nevertheless was. Intent is not the same as effect.

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Let’s make an effort to read facial expressions here, shall we?

Lets do some more: once, a man on my bus detoured on his way off to tell me I was so pretty. A man in an airport gestured to me and said it was great to be next to one of the most beautiful women here. A man approached me at bar to say I had a “yoga” body. Another told me I was the perfect size but not to lose any more weight. So here’s the benevolent part: these interactions were clearly intended as complimentary and I strongly suspect that no comment would have been made if I did not pass the test. But I did and these men felt I should know. This knowledge was given, I believe, to make me feel good. But here’s the sexism part: the reason these men felt entitled and even obligated to tell me their personal judgments about my body is because our sexist institutions and our sexist media says that women’s value goes up when they are deemed desirable. Looking good—especially in ways that elicit men’s sexual desire—is an achievement and, for women, often a prerequisite to other forms of status and power. Chimamanda Adiche calls this bottom power. Rosalind Gill calls this a postfeminist sensibility. Whatever you name it, the sentiment is built on a foundation of sexism: women are of higher value when they are coveted objects of hetero-male desire.

Caveat: I like physical compliments from my partner and I liked them from people I went on dates with, provided the date was going ok. And of course some women do like physical compliments from strange men. What’s that you say, not all women are the same? Why, that’s true! But I—one woman speaking for herself—I don’t like them so I try not to respond at all, or say something neutral like “ok.” I don’t smile and I don’t say thank you because I’m not happy or thankful. This is generally met with confusion or indignation and sometimes anger. You see, it’s assumed that I will smile and say thank you because of the complimentary intent, even if the effect is that I am uncomfortable, and even if the effect is that I am being forced into a sexist interaction. Smiling and saying thank you is expected from me because I am woman, as is apologizing, acquiescing, not showing aggression, being ever so pleasing, and staying in my lane. Expecting and even requiring women to placate men above their own feelings, to accept the intent of a comment rather than its personal or social effects, well, that’s sexist.

Here’s where I answer my title: why the fuck should I even care about a man on a bus telling me I’m pretty when White male senators are making decisions about my reproductive heath care, when rape is handled egregiously in our law and order system, when transwomen of Color are murdered every fucking day? Make no mistake, we need to work on this shit. Badly. Loudly. All hands to battlestations! But there’s no limit on the sexist items we can work on. Some sexist shit is more urgent but all acts of sexism contribute to a sexist society. And Kristen Hubby argues that when we let benevolent sexism slide because we’re focused on hostile sexism, we allow a less visible but still very real form of sexism to harden into the framework of our society. Benevolent sexism is not necessarily hostile but it just as effectively forestalls social change. Schooling ourselves on benevolent sexism shouldn’t diminish the focus on hostile sexism. We can do both friends.

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DO NOT USE CATS TO HIGHLIGHT SEXIST SOCIAL TROPES HISTORICAL ADVERTISEMENT THAT’S MY DEAL

**Oh wait I have another caveat. Terms like men and women or male and female are just grossly inaccurate. Not all men do this, not all males do this, and sometimes people who are not men or males do this. It’s a bit more accurate to say these interactions are tied to categories of masculinity and femininity, but of course not all masculine people do this and not all feminine people do that. However, Kate Bornstein argues that if the binary categories of masculine and feminine and men and women and male and female didn’t carry such social weight, then sexism wouldn’t exist because sexism is a direct and intentional result of how our gender system is built. Ok I’m done now for reals.

Posted in culture, gender, sexism, society, Uncategorized

Imma just leave these tools here…

Hello Saucy readers, great day right? Guess that depends on what you look like, where you’re from, who you love, what organs you have in your body, what your health is or was at any point in your life, what religion you’re connected to even in the most broad sense of the term, and if you need to get anything done or care about anyone.

 You don’t need another blog article freaking you out because I’m assuming you’re already freaked out. Me too. Also, there’s a lot to be said and I’m not the person to say all of it. Instead my Saucies, imma furnish you with a few “toolbox terms” I’m teaching my students this week. These tools come from a set of lessons I initially wrote three years ago but I bet if you try reallllllyyyy hard you can connect them to current events. Like, really current events.untitled

Let’s start with an easy one. Xenophobia is a deep and irrational hatred towards “foreigners” or an unreasonable fear of unfamiliar people and their cultural objects and traditions. A belief that qualities such as geographical linage, immigrant status, or forms of culture constitute an immutable interpersonal difference springs from xenophobia. The examples I use in class are the popular justifications for not accepting refugees into a country, especially if those refugees were like, Jewish or are say, I dunno, Syrian.

Let’s step it up. Cultural racism stems from constant images and messages that affirm the diversity of White people and the inferiority, singularity, or negative stereotypical qualities of people of Color. As Beverly Tatum says, “if we live in an environment in which were are bombarded with stereotypical images in the media, are frequently exposed to the ethnic jokes of friends and family members, and are rarely informed of the accomplishments of oppressed groups, we will develop the negative categorizations of those groups that form the basis of prejudice” (“Defining Racism” 125). The examples I use in my class are the constant stream of news images and stories depicting Black protesters as little more than dangerous rioters and scary looters. Perhaps you might be able to think of recent examples where whole populations are characterized in a singular and derogatory way and then that pervasive cultural image is levied to forward political campaigns or federal mandates? Just a thought.

Yer gonna love this one: sincere fictions. People’s negative beliefs about other groups (generally ethnic/racial but can be extended to identities like sexual orientation) are usually unfeigned (i.e. sincerely believed) because a person in power has presented culturally racist or xenophobic statements as if they were truth or fact. Sad to say, but we usually trust authorities/news sources to tell us the truth or at least work with an objective baseline of facts. We also usually assume people in power are smart and educated. Or at least that they are smart and educated enough to make sure that what they say is factual and provable. The example I use in class is a statement called the “The Marriage Vow”–endorsed six years ago by Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum–that said that “a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than [one born in 2008].” This statement is easily disprovable but some people believed it because two powerful politicians endorsed its validity.

Perhaps there are more recent examples where a prominent figure said [tweeted] something and people believed it, not necessarily because those people where malicious or dumb, but because they assumed the person in power was likely saying [tweeting] facts or objective statements, or at least fact-checking what was being said [tweeted]? Just a thought.

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I don’t see how this picture is in any way connected to anything I literally just said

Just for kicks, lets do two more I threw into the lesson mix this week. Biopolitics: when social and political power (often the state’s power) is wielded over life through the regulation of bodies, human processes, and bodily freedoms/movements. Abortion is a great example because the government seeks to control the bodies and lives of reproducing populations in every capacity-not just if bodies can choose to have (or not have) an abortion, but also under what conditions (rape, incest, life of mother), and where/how (geography, timeline, tests or mandatory statements). Biopolitics is also strongly connected to who can access health care, which body practices are illegal or legal, and which people can move around freely versus which are detained. At say, airports.

Last one, and it’s a goodie. Necropolitics is a context where the choice or line between life and death is made by the state or those in social and political power. Necropolitics is more than just the state’s authority to kill (for example, through the death penalty.) It also involves the state’s authority to invoke contexts of living death (the devaluation of a person’s life to the point of death) like slavery, and to expose people to physical death (like putting people in a situation where their death is imminent, or not helping people out of a situation where their death is imminent).

The biopolitical regulations of bodies in the form of say, temporary detainments, can easy slide into the necropolitical regulation of people into say, concentration camps.

To give a name to a social structure of power is a critical first step towards contesting and changing it. So let’s see if you can see and then name these terms in action, perhaps by checking your Twitter feed for 5 minutes any hour or day of the week. Bet you can!

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If she did, she would be saying “intersectional feminist movementS” and she would be wearing glitter. We all do.

Posted in academia, feminism, intersectionality, politics

Young Adult book reviewers are the only thing winning 2017 right now

I read Young Adult books. I know. It started with the Hunger Games, which is completely legit. I moved into Divergent and they made that into movies [now TV movies, sorry Shailene Woodley] so that was ok. Then suddenly I was purchasing anything that was YA and written as a series and set in a different world and had a female protagonist that goes on adventures. Many of these books are not really that good. But I have my reasons for reading them, reasons connected to what a student once wrote on a class evaluation: “everything we talk about in class is negative.” I teach social sciences, so we analyze society. Society often sucks. Even when we talk about cool things like America’s Next Top Model, I make them identify and explain how the show perpetuates racist and neoliberal ideologies. I know. But media awareness is an important skill. You can love what you love but you must always love with your eyes open.

Anyway, I read Young Adult fantasy series books because sometimes you just can’t read more about Aleppo and the prison industrial complex. Sometimes you just gotta’ read about a 17 year old girl with like magic powers or whatever. This is embarrassing but not really my point. Let me get to my point. Right after this next paragraph.
6281d3ba-5016-4b99-8b28-3b9d6a31d229Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series is one I read. This is a very popular series but Maas is writing for a YA audience (and I guess some college professors too) so the characters can do immature things, and also there are plot holes sometimes, and there is a lot of crying. Lots of people cry. Oh and everyone has magic. And everyone is beautiful. And everyone is either 18 or 500 years old. I just read the newest book, Empire of Storms, because that’s what I do. Everything blew up at the end and I was so pissed that I actually went online to check reviews and see if other readers felt the same.

Here’s where I look like an asshole and the future looks a little brighter. Judging from the profile pictures, I’d wager most of the reviews I read were by teen girls and young women. Were they pissed at the ending like me? Nah, they were pissed at the lack of racial and sexual diversity, and the derisive sexual content. I know.

“This book has no diversity whatsoever. Every single main character is straight and white af [as fuck]. SJM [Sarah J. Maas] has like 50 pov characters between her two series, you’d think some of them would be a little different right? Right? Wrong” (Kimi).

Many criticisms were about how almost all the characters in this book were described as white people. Reviewers had iterations on this basic point: if the author could create a world with witches and fairies and magic, why couldn’t she describe like five of her bazillion main characters as something other than “golden” skinned? Excellent point, young reviewers. Double points for the phrase “straight and white af.”

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“in her previous books we’ve seen only one woman of color and no gay or lesbian person. Whether the publisher insisted or she herself decided to show ’em all, but EoS [Empire of Storms] is full of queers. And all of them are dead or unimportant and shows up only in one or two sentences. Plus the only bi character romances a woman. So what was that? ‘I have gays and lesbians! Fuck off!’ scream? Diversity for the sake of diversity is a mock. If you don’t feel like developing queer-relationships than stay away from this theme” (Katerina).

Many reviewers noted how only a few marginal characters had queer sexual identities or desires, and only one main character declares a bi-sexual identity but then is specifically put into a heterosexual romance. Double points to this reviewer for shredding fake liberalism: the inclusion of queer characters as a nod to diverse representation but without treating their relationship stories as valuable as heterosexual pairings. Visibility does not necessarily mean progressiveness. Very excellent point, young reviewers.

“I’m not against these [sex] scenes, but also didn’t need them. They didn’t really fit the tone and even felt a bit forced into the story in several places. I actually wish the page time had been spent elsewhere. (So basically, YES, you can skip them and it won’t affect anything). If the sexual content is what’s stopping you from reading this story, the pages in the US hardcover to skip are…” (Cait).

Overwhelmingly, reviewers said the harlequin romance-esque love scenes simply got in the way of the storytelling. I’m still working through why so many books written for a young female audience have these sex scenes, but it’s clearly connected to how the media so often handles young women’s bodies and desires. In our society, young women are told that they should long for the objectifying sexual attentions of men. Of course, young women are punished for being sexual (that includes reading sex scenes), but there is an overarching cultural ideology that says young women want to be sexy and desired because they know these qualities will transform them into socially powerful adults. So I suspect these harlequin romance-esque sex scenes are encoded into young women’s literature because media producers assume their readership identifies with the female protagonists, and thus will want the female protagonists to be highly sexually desired by men, and thus powerful women.

The sex scenes were not “rape romancey” or otherwise sexually humiliating (although I have problems with certain gross verbs and adjectives Maas uses). Many reviewers simply noted that that they added little to the plot and could the author use that space to work more on character development and battle scenes? Double points to this reviewer for actually including the page numbers of the scenes so people can just skip over them.

I spend about three months in my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies class teaching college students how to do this exact type of critical work, and also why it’s important to practice apprehending the complexities of a given social situation, to hone the tools necessary to make educated, layered evaluations. Students can still love America’s Next Top Model, but they never get to watch it again without awareness.

I don’t want to imply that I thought teens and young adults couldn’t come up with these criticisms, only that I was surprised by the sharpness and ease with which so many hit these points in otherwise generally positive book reviews. That is, that they were able to love what they loved but with their eyes open to critical issues of race, sexual orientation, and sexual representation. 2016 was a hard year, and no doubt 2017 will get harder. But my faith in the future has moved up a notch.

Posted in books, popular culture, queer, race, sexiness, young adult | 1 Comment

The Pink Tax is Some Sex Difference Bullshit

A while back, I was in the market for a day hiking backpack. I needed something that could carry more clothing and more food than my current pack. I settled on two packs that had the same water capacity, same size number, basically same pocket, strap, and pole-carry features. One was red-gray and the other was “reflecting pond/Andean toucan” color. Guess which was the “women’s” backpack (clearly denoted by the “women’s symbol” on the description tag)? Now guess which was $15 more?

I went to a local outdoor store that sold both packs for the different prices and asked the manager what the fuck was the difference. I assumed he would tell me the women’s pack had special cushions for my ovaries or extra pockets for my many, many tampons. He said the only notable difference was that the red-gray pack, the “men’s” pack (so called  on Amazon), was one inch longer. The men’s pack was made slightly longer in the torso because all men are taller than women. ALL OF THEM. Because I’m tall, the manager recommended I buy the men’s pack as it would actually fit better. I got to save $15 and get one more inch of space, which was the whole fucking reason for getting a new pack. Yay me! But also, fuck cultural assumptions of sex difference that result in bullshit like the pink tax.

Exhibit #1: cultural binarism, or the idea that binary sex difference (male or female) is the most important difference in the universe and that’s why we have to separate bathrooms and locker rooms and toy aisles and backpacks. Sex difference is basically this “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, every single person has a specific and unique body with specific features and unique capacities. And even though human bodies are largely the same and function largely the same, bodies do have biological and genetic differences. Like I’m taller than some and thinner than others. So the deal with sex difference is that it presumes the sex assigned to your unique body (generally based on genital appearance, but also sometimes hormones, gonads, and chromosomes) makes you fundamentally different from some people and fundamentally the same as other people.

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I’m pretty sure all ladies basically have this inside them. It’s why we like pink so much. Genetics.

I’m a lot taller than some people and that can be a significant physical difference but we don’t see height as a fundamental difference. That’s why we don’t have bathrooms and locker rooms organized by height. BUT WHAT IF WE DID??? We have this idea that men and women shouldn’t use the same bathroom because they’ll be having sex in there or be sexually stalked or it will be the end of the world or something because ANARCHY. Caveat: some people do weird and fucked up shit in bathrooms. But this cultural binarism argument—that men and women are fundamentally different and thus need separate bathroom spaces—could really be made for any difference. Watch me do it:

  • We need to divided bathrooms by height: over 5’9 bathrooms and under 5’9 bathrooms. People above a certain height are able to look over stall doors and peep; people under a certain height are able to look under stall doors and creep. We need separate bathroom spaces because this critical physical difference leads to uncomfortable, sexually dangerous situations.

Watch me do it again:

  • We need to divide bathrooms by age: over 50 bathrooms and under 50 bathrooms. People over 50 take more time and thus need more space. They are are also more susceptible to being sexual victims of the high-sex drive of the under 50 crowd. We need separate bathroom spaces because this critical physical difference leads to uncomfortable, sexually dangerous situations.

Just to be clear, this “fundamental body difference leading to sexually threatening or compromising situations” is the same argument used to keep Black people out of White bathrooms.

Exhibit #2: the pink tax,* or when a product or service for women is arbitrarily more expensive than an equivalent product or service for men. The pink tax might extend to when female-body products like birth control pills or tampons are more luxury-taxed or harder to obtain than men’s similar products. But often the pink tax is way more sexistly overt: it’s when identical products like razors or services like dry cleaning are just different prices for men and women. So that pink razor sitting in the “women’s shave needs” aisle is a dollar more than the gray razor made by the same company but sitting in the “men’s shave needs” aisle. Or a lady is charged more for the blouse she took to the dry cleaners even though it’s the same fabric and ACTUALLY LESS MATERIAL than the men’s shirt. The pink tax is some arbitrary bullshit but it feeds on cultural binarism aka the idea that women and men are fundamentally different and thus cannot use the same products and services even if there’s little difference in the actual product or service.

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So back to my pack. According to the store manager, the major difference was length; the men’s pack was designed for a slightly taller body. Yet instead of labeling the packs according to height difference, they were labeled according to sex difference. (We were left to fill in the blanks with stereotypes about all men being naturally taller and thus in need of man pack and women as generally shorter cause vaginas or something.) The ladies pack was then sold at a higher price even though there was literally less pack. And women, who historically earn less than men in the U.S., have to pay more for less, unless a kind store manager tells them the skinny and gives them an awesome local’s discount to boot.

The pink tax is some sex difference bullshit.

 

*I didn’t even know this term until a student came to my office and talked to me about it. You’re never too old or too educated to find out something new and fucked up about the world, and then process the shit out of it.

Posted in culture, gender, society

(Don’t Call Clinton a) Bitch, Please

The New York Times says we should want a bitch in the White House. Or, a little more specifically (and a little less clickbaity), writing for the New York Times opinion page, Andi Zeisler of Bitch Media proposes embracing the term that’s been so maliciously lobbied against Hillary Clinton. Zeisler’s argument is that Clinton’s called a bitch because she doesn’t put being likable above all else and because she has presidential-level tenacity and ambition. Zeisler evokes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s 2008 declaration that “bitches get stuff done” and asks “what if that’s not a bad thing”?

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I like where Zeisler’s going but, before jumping on the bitch bandwagon, I want to take a little stroll down language, meaning, and reclamation lane.

Most words are what we in the biz call sign systems or sign chains: they communicate complex and extended meanings. Take the term “public bathroom.” In the U.S., a public bathroom probably won’t have a bath but we all know what’s in there and what it’s for. Here’s another one: “9/11.” It’s just two numbers. But for those in the U.S. of a certain age, these two numbers immediately evoke images of death, destruction, fear, loss, and war. The meaning tied into those numbers is much more than just the sum of the numbers themselves. Here’s one more: “feminist.” It characterizes a person who has particular social and institutional views, politics, and goals. And yet when a person is publicly called a feminist, it might have little to do with her political leanings and everything to do with how she is perceived as shrill, unfeminine, opinionated, and man-hating. In other words, a bitch.

Some words are loaded with histories of abuse and degradation. Some words were created for the explicit purpose of dehumanizing and justifying oppression. You know that old kiddy rhyme “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurts me”? That rhyme is BULLSHIT. Words can absolutely hurt. They can invalidate. They can belittle. And, very significantly, some words are used to incite and justify violence.

Reclamation is the project of taking the shitty part of a particular term and dispersing it, then replacing with more positive stuff. Reclamation has been fairly successful with the term “queer.” Sixty years ago (let’s get real, twenty years ago), queer was not something you could just call people. Or actually you could if you wanted to demean or belittle that person. Today, I teach for a Queer Studies program; in my classroom, the term is not only acceptable, it’s considered more appropriate than some other terms. Queer is now often used to give people respect and humanity, to create inclusion. My 69-year-old mother used to avoid using that term like the fucking plague, and she now proudly tells people her daughter teaches queer theory. Queer shows the power of reclamation.

Now let’s look at the N-word. That’s right, I’m not even gonna write it. That’s because this term has not been successfully reclaimed. Mass inhumanity and violence happened alongside this term and, while some have tried to bend it toward an inclusion and family meaning, it’s not been able to fully shake the filthy legacy. It’s unusable by ethical White people, and still controversial when used by Black people (see Larry Wilmore’s Correspondents Dinner speech).*

I don’t know exactly why some terms have a chance at reclamation and others just don’t. I’m guessing it’s an intricate balance of the histories and legacies poured into the word plus time, distance, and respect. My point is this: reclamation has a ton of potential but isn’t a guaranteed success. Some words never shake free.

Back to the bitch. Zeisler acknowledges that people are never gonna stop calling Clinton a bitch (cause haters, also cause gendered expectations). So Zeisler’s like, cool let’s just fucking reclaim this term then. Let Clinton embrace her bitchness, let the term signal her get-things-done attitude and her ceiling-breaking pathway to the Presidency. Zeisler urges us to frame Clinton as “the bitch America needs.”

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I found this by typing “Clinton bitch meme” into Google images. If I can give you one piece of advice today: don’t do this.

Great. Cool. I like it. In theory. But also, bitch is deeply historically and socially situated. It doesn’t just name a tough person who doesn’t fall into gender line, it’s systematically used to invalidate women by dehumanizing them, effectively reducing them to a breeding animal in need of control. Bitch is also frequently used to create an allowable context for violence, rape, and murder against women. That’s why every Law & Order creeper says: “the bitch got what she deserved.”

Not everything is equivalent, but let’s play the equivalent game. If mass publics were systematically calling President Obama a “porch monkey” (yes, I know some did and yes, I know, GROSS), I wonder how many articles would declare that he should embrace and reclaim the term because his Blackness is a strength and a valuable asset to his Presidency. I’m guessing that few people asked President Obama to channel his strength and value through a really disgusting racist term.

There’s power in flipping negatives into positives and simultaneously justifying behavior that doesn’t fall into stratified gender ideals. But I don’t know if we can just flip the script on bitch, or if Clinton should feel obligated to embrace this label as something that empowers her and validates her kick-assness. I’m not sure if bitch can be totally reclaimed, and I’m not totally convinced it should be.

But this is just one bitch’s opinion.

 

*rather than saying “the N-word,” some of my Black students will replace the term with the word “ninja.” I don’t know exactly why this happens, but it’s clever-as-fuck.

Posted in culture, feminism, gender, popular culture, queer, society

We Should All Be Feminists (Even Our Presidents)

Barack Obama is a feminist. So says Barack Obama in a self-authored article for Glamour. This is big news, not just because he’s a man but because he’s a famous and powerful man: things that are rarely connected to people who identify as feminists. Ok, so he gets his cookie (even though, as a close friend reasoned, “all men should be feminists anyway”). But they don’t because masculinity or whatever. So cookie given.barack-obama-feminist-375x500I’m not as interested in President Obama’s self-definition as a feminist as I am in what he thinks a feminist is. You see, those in the public eye have been notoriously bad at explaining feminism. At worst, feminists are characterized as man-hating women. At best, narratives follow that feminism is about the equal right of women to work as, say, sexy lethal assassins. As you know, every time a celebrity misidentifies postfeminism as feminism, a feminist media scholar dies (inside, at least).

Some public figures such as (my forever crush) Chimamanda Adichie accurately explain feminism as the work of people who acknowledge and address complex, interconnected issues including gender boxes, socioeconomics, sexuality, violence, work, parenting, race, culture, and domestic relations. But no matter how much Adichie slayed her “We Should All Be Feminists” TedTalk, it won’t get the attention or audience that a Glamor article about feminism written by a sitting male president will. So my question o’ the day: what exactly did President Obama tell us feminism is?

Here’s his article. Read it. It’s good. Ok, there’s a bit too much American exceptionalism and progress narrative. That’s those statements of, gee ladies, look how far we’ve come, you went from being secretaries and housewives to astronauts! There’s certainly some truth to that, but it’s a narrative that ignores issues and inequalities tied to race, socioeconomic status, and citizenship. Many Women of Color were barred from those secretarial positions, and some women didn’t have the socioeconomic standing to be housewives. A White, upper-class woman may become the next U.S. President, but deep and systemic issues around work and domestic opportunity still exist. You know that “women make 79 cents to the man’s dollar thing?” White women make 79 cents to a White man’s dollar. Women of Color, transwomen, and undocumented women make wayyyyy less.

I was prepared for a sitting U.S. president to give me the exceptionalism and progress narrative thing. What I was not expecting was the clear and thoughtful way he addressed masculinity, intersectionality, non-hegemonic identities, and privilege. These are critical aspects of feminist inquiry and activism. So, according to Barack Obama, who is a feminist?

A feminist is a person who acknowledges masculinity is a construct too. In discussions about the constricting and stratified box that is femininity, we often fail to mention how femininity is constructed as a binary contrast to masculinity. President Obama names that dichotomy:“the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.” He also articulates how masculinity is constructed via a particular type of “toughness” or “coolness” that forces men to be “assertive” (aka violent) and prevents them from “shedding a tear” or taking on full-time parenting roles. In short, gender boxes fucking suck. We’re getting marginally better at verbalizing those feminine/female boxes, but male/masculine boxes are just as stifling and damaging.

A feminist is a person who acknowledges that gender intersects with other categories of self. Both Barack and Michelle Obama are good at articulating this, but it bears repeating: gender does not exist in a vacuum and not all women are the same. In his article, President Obama notices and acknowledges that Michelle faces unique and specific gender stigmas and obstacles: “we need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too ‘angry.’” The Combahee River Collective would agree.

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Hey Girl, I acknowledge your overlapping intersectional inequalities.

A feminist is a person who acknowledges that, while all people are subject to the sex/sexuality binary, not all people fit that binary. Even very good social justice campaigns tend to employ discourses such as “men need to support their wives.” This presumes that people are cisgender and heterosexual (men and women/men marry women). I know, this is an overwhelmingly dominant and unquestioned belief about bodies and desires. But dominant and unquestioned beliefs are not always true. Actually, there’s a lot of variety in terms of bodies and sexualities, but that variety has been stuffed into those same fucking binary and dichotomous gender boxes. Twice in his essay, President Obama notes that “gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation” and “forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise.” As a queer studies scholar and a feminist, I’d like to see a whole lot more of this. But acknowledging this part of feminism is an important part of being a feminist. So it’s a start.

A feminist is a person who acknowledges their own positions of privilege. Audre Lorde says that when People of Color/women have to continually explain racism/sexism to White people/men, it saps their time and energy that they should be using on themselves/their own liberation. Peggy McIntosh says that people with racial or gender privileges have a responsibility to see and name their own privileges. Several times in this essay, President Obama notes his own gender privileges vis-à-vis Michelle. He notes that few people questioned his choice of occupation even though it took him away from his family for long periods of time. He notes his ability to support his family on his own time schedule, even though it meant his female partner had to pick up whatever slack was left. He notes how men such as him are congratulated for changing their child’s diaper because it is framed as an aid rather than a duty. In short, he notes how he was able to succeed in part because of institutionalized gender privileges regarding work and family.

I must admit that I avoided reading this essay for two days because I was fairly certain President Obama would articulate that glossy, surface, faux version of feminism that is so often the pop culture best-case-scenario. And he did that a bit. But he also hit on several key ideas that are not only essential in any compete definition of feminism, but also critical for informing the actions of any feminist. We should all be feminists, and I agree that that President Obama is one too.

Posted in celebrity, culture, feminism, society | Tagged

Feminist Consumerism is Goddamn Confusing

Have you seen this commercial? WATCH IT.

Ok, let’s discuss. This is from UK-based Bodyform, a company selling period pads and liners. It’s part of Bodyform’s Red.fit campaign, which is about encouraging women to be active even when menstruating. The commercial is getting a lot of media attention for one overtly expressed reason, and another that’s less clearly articulated but still significant.

#1: it’s a period commercial that shows blood.
Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 2.17.24 PM.pngUsually period commercials represent periods with blue liquid or ice tea or whatever else might be excellent stand-ins for expelled uterine lining. In this commercial, we’re not seeing expelled uterine lining (we know that periods are mainly not blood but expelled uterine lining, right?) but we are seeing bodies expelling a substance similar in color and viscosity (kind of) to periods.

#2: it’s a period commercial where women are doing real active shit rather than just chilling in a white room, or maybe swimming in a white bathing suit, or maybe getting ready for a romantic dinner date with hubby because everyone with periods is a cisgender heterosexual woman. Actually, it’s pretty cool that this commercial positively represents active female bodies and also positively represents the byproducts of that activity: dirt, blood, broken skin.

So these are two things to think about. And here are some other things to think about too.

#3: this is feminist consumerism. What is feminist consumerism you ask, because it sounds amazing!?! Actually, it’s capitalistic manipulation. It’s when a company gets you to buy their product by selling it via feminist or otherwise liberal and progressive messages and images about women. To be clear: the product does not have to align with feminism. The product might actually reinforce sexist ideas, or racist ideas, or limited ideas about gender. But we’re supposed to buy it anyway because of how its marketed. Here’s perpetrator numero uno:
doveDove sells beauty products. Women are supposed to buy beauty products to feminize themselves, make themselves pleasing to others, alter their bodies to better conform to hegemonic beauty standards. Here’s how Dove sells its beauty products:imagesYou’re perfect inside and out, don’t change. Except change how you smell and your natural oils and your wrinkles. Do it with Dove.

Ok, you get the picture. Feminist consumerism is the selling of something that might be entirely unrelated to feminist ideals or goals via words and images that our society associates with feminist ideals and goals.

#4: feminist ideals and goals are popularly depicted with that ol’ post-feminist chestnut “Girl Power.” Girl power women are strong, fit, ass-kickers, and desirably hegemonic too. This might be represented by, say, good looking, thin ciswomen trail-running or surfing or rock climbing. When these women get hurt, what do they do? They get up and continue on without crying or stopping to bandage that nasty head wound.

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…except the blood from a gaping head wound.

It is awesome that these women can be physically strong and really good at sports (and apparently medieval knightery as well). But that’s not the only vision of feminism, and it’s actually a pretty privileged version of feminist ideals too.

#5: last but not at all least: that cool-as-fuck background music is “Native Puppy Love” by the cool-as-fuck A Tribe Called Red: three Indigenous individuals who mix native music, often PowWow singing, chanting, and drumming, with dubstep. A Tribe Called Red is cool-as-fuck and you should learn more about them.

A Tribe Called Red is getting some commercial visibility here and I hope some dollars too. Their music is all about Indigenous people using their own local or culture-specific music and performance practices to create new art. Their work is also a means for native people to expose non-native people to native culture, instead of what usually happens, which is White people appropriating, reducing, and commodifying native culture. But also, A Tribe Called Red is not credited in the commercial. And whereas A Tribe Called Red use images in its videos and during shows that highlight native bodies or deconstruct White-created images of native bodies, this song is laid under images of what appear to be non-native women, many of whom are engaging in activities associated with colonization (ballet obv, but also the knight thing is a bit crusadey for me).

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Welp, off to colonize brown people.

Conclusion: is this commercial super cool or super problematic? I dunno. It’s using feminist tropes to get me to consume pads. But pads are used for a physical rather than a beatification process, and they’re not really a trendy or super expensive product either. The commercial is associating women’s bodies with blood and dirt and injury, but we aren’t supposed to see this as vile or even unfeminine. The relationship between how we should feel about women doing bloody activities and women with periods is clear: it’s not gross, it’s awesome. But also, am I going to buy this product because I want to be one of those kick-ass, tough-as-nails, bloody, post-feminist ladies with expensive workout clothes and a soundtrack of cool PowWow dubstep as the background to my White cis life? I JUST DON’T FUCKING KNOW.

Every year I get bad evaluations from students who are pissed that I’ve told them “the social sciences doesn’t offer answers, only  questions.” Yes, they hate that. What it means is that value doesn’t always reside in the black or the white of a conclusion. There’s value in the ability to see and to name the gray, to understand what you’re consuming and why. Can I tell you to buy or not buy this product? To celebrate or revile it on social media? No. What I can offer you is all those critical thinking synapses we just built. And that’s cool too.

I can also offer you this:
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YOU’RE WELCOME.

Posted in gender, popular culture, postfeminist, social media | Tagged ,

What the Fuck is Wrong With You, HBO’s Game of Thrones?

*Game of Thrones spoilers. Also spoilers about if Donald Trump is sexist. Spoiler: yes*

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A few days ago, Donald Trump responded to a comment Secretary Clinton made  by emphasizing that she was shouting and shouting wasn’t womanly. This is sexist, obv. I’m sure Trump knew it was sexist because this thing about Clinton shouting had already come up and the media/Clinton supporters/Clinton had already explained why it’s a sexist thing to say. I think Trump said it precisely because it had already been vetted as sexist. That is, he said it to get a rise out of people and maybe appeal to sexist members of his constituency. Today I’m wondering this: are the producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones willfully ignorant of their continued sexism, or are they pulling a Donald Trump on me?

Let’s not beat around the bush: I enjoy Game of Thrones but it’s been pretty heavily criticized for it’s fucked up treatment of women. For every kick-ass Brienne or Arya scene, we get unnecessary shots of women’s naked bodies, often during scenes of sexual violence (I’ve argued here how dangerous this particular representation is). They’ve also transformed consensual sex acts from the books into rapes, denied they filmed a rape scene based on the very old and very tired “rape to consent” argument (see Steve Attewell eviscerate this here). And last season I wrote about how they manufactured a repeated rape and sexual torture of Sansa Stark plotline—just for funsies.

Game of Thrones has been blasted for these representations by the mainstream media, by bloggers, by fans that refuse to continue watching. So there’s a pretty palatable message out there: your treatment of women can really suck. Now, after watching the season six premiere, “The Red Woman,” I’m truly wondering if producers are willfully clueless or if they’re actively trying to push a misogyny angle.

What’s my Saucy beef with an episode unusually free of rapes and gratuitous nudity? In answer, let me tell you a little story about George R.R. Martin’s vision of Dorne. Like everywhere in the GRRM A Song of Ice and Fire world, bad shit goes down in Dorne. But unlike every other place in the books, the Dornish don’t ascribe to the ol’ gender hierarchy lineage bullshit. Women can be in charge and, if the oldest child is a woman, she’s the ruler. There’s more gender equality in Dorne, which is probably why there are so many hard-core female political players in Dorne. Arianne Martell and the Sand Snakes actually want to help Princess Myrcella claim her birthright to the Iron Throne, which they believe has been stolen from her by sexist Westerosi gender laws.

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Yea it’s a political snake pit, but at least we don’t have that 79 cents to a man’s dollar bullshit.

HBO’s translation of this world: Arianne is rolled into Ellaria Sand. Ellaria wants to kill Myrcella as a fuck you to Cersei, even though it’s a terrible political move. The motivation for this is, of course, a man (sorry Bechdel test, not today). After Ellaria succeeds in revenge-killing Myrcella, she then kills the ruler of Dorne, a very sweet, gentle, disabled, protector of children. She stabs him in the heart. Why? Apparently he is a WEAK MAN (because he won’t revenge-kill a child) and WEAK MEN WILL NEVER RULE DORNE AGAIN HAHAHAHA. The Sand Snakes then butcher their sweet and innocent cousin Trystane JUST TO GET RID OF THAT WHOLE MARTELL MAN LINE HAHAHAHA.

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Take that Dr Bashir!

Game of Thrones took strong political players who do rational things based on feminist-eque principles and made them into straw feminist caricatures. The straw feminist is a fallacy of a media representation, it’s a figure who calls herself a feminist but she’s not a feminist; she’s an irrational, man-hating shrew who wishes to suppress male power and men at all costs, give herself power over others, and hates all women who don’t follow her lead. She’s mean, loud, and generally out of control. The point of the straw feminist trope is to show how grotesque powerful women are, and how dangerous and destructive their irrational desires for equality and self-governance can be.

Game of Thrones has made Dorne into a place where powerful women  1) get into petty and ultimately really harmful cat fights and 2) do totally irrational things like murder their family/royalty for the sake of hating on and castrating “weak men.” It’s a sexist representation, and it’s a harmful one.

So thanks Game of Thrones, for an episode without gratuitous and sexualized rapes. Here’s your cookie. But also, fuck you for your construction of a very recognizable but also very empty and pejorative representation of Dornish women, and a twisted depiction of what women would do to a society that recognizes their equality and sovereignty. This representation is so blatantly twisted from its original intent, from George R.R. Martin’s own characterization, I just have to wonder… it is because not one writer or producer on this show has taken even an introductory level Women’s and Gender Studies course, or are they Donald Trumping me?

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Brienne of Tarth is still my motherfucking jam

Posted in #MediaGettingItWrong, feminism, Game of Thrones, gender, television, Uncategorized, violence

Sense8: how queer is this queer show?

Controversial. Edgy. “Pushing LGBT.” Full of the “gay agenda.” So says the over 4000 Netflix user reviews about Sense8.

I’m sure this show is floating around your queue alongside Master of None and Jessica Jones. Like Master and Jessica, Sense8 is a Netflix Original that received a lot of buzz, a lot of views, and a lot of debate about whether the show was worthy of buzz and views. Judging from the tone of the reviews section, it seems Sense8 is perceived as having an “agenda” of LGBT visibility, content, and politics. In other words, Sense8 is a gay show.

Sense8 is intriguing and a bit overstyled. I’m not really interested in debating the merits of the show in-and-of-itself here; I enjoyed it as much as many other Netflix Originals. I am interested in debating the merits of its label as a LGBT-focused show with graphic representations of gay sex. I disagree on both points.

Netflix User Reviews:
“The only reason I can imagine why some decide to love (and then passionately defend) this show is because it uses LGBTQ and minority characters.”
“heavy push for the Gay agenda. I don’t mind gay characters. I just wish I could watch a good show without being constantly reminded of the writers political agenda.”

From these reviews, one would guess that the entire cast of characters identifies as LGBT and that the show only revolves around their “gay issues” (whatever that is). Spoiler here: two out of the eight main characters identify within the LGBT spectrum. Two. 25%. Or, to put it another way, 75% of the main characters are heterosexual or their sexuality never comes up (in our compulsory heteronormative society, not identifying as homosexual means presumed heterosexuality. I don’t make the rules kids, I just point out the hypocrisy).

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Yes! No. No. No. No. No. No. Yes!

But back to my point: two of eight. I understand that two is way more than zero, and probably twice as much as you find in other “progressive” shows. But it’s not a lot. In fact, it’s a really small percentage. I suspect the user reviews that focus on this “overwhelming” LGBT presence do not pay attention to how our usual media fare is constructed to be almost exclusively (and inaccurately) heterosexual. 25% is more than 0%, I’ll give you that. But it’s far below a failing grade.

Netflix User Reviews:
“It shows rampant gay couplings and includes two lesbians rolling around on the bed using a toy”
“Super graphic gay sx scenes (and, being straight, not very comfortable to watch)”

One of the best/worst things about series produced off mainstream TV is that they show a lot of naked bodies and sex scenes. This is HBO’s bread and butter, y’all. Sense8 is no different: we see breasts and bodies and group sex and a used dildo. Honestly though, if you’re a Game of Thrones watcher, this is like the kid’s table.

As the reviews point out, the two LGBT-spectrum characters do have sex and we do see their bodies and that of their same-gender partners. But let’s do a wee analysis on these scenes, shall we? Couple #1, main character Nomi and her girlfriend Amanita, are very beautiful and very thin and have long hair and wear makeup and have toned, relatively hairless bodies. They are very feminine. We see them having sex with each other so, yes, this is queer sex but also it’s not really that queer. In fact, it looks an awful lot like the type of girl-on-girl porn created for heterosexual male audiences.

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I heart Jamie Clayton’s eyebrows forever

Couple #2, main character Lito and his boyfriend Hernando, are very handsome and have short hair and rugged beards and perfect, hugely muscled bodies and are very masculine. We see them having sex with each other so, yes, this is queer sex also but it’s not really that queer. When they have sex, their female friend actually watches them and masturbates to it, which leads me to believe this is intended to replicate a pornographic scene that would appeal to heterosexual female audiences.

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working out is important for health

Lets also analyze why these particular characters, as opposed to the other six mains, are so often portrayed having sex. New flash: these are the only two characters in long-term, stable, fairly monogamous love relationships. We see them having sex more because their couple-sex is a more socially acceptable and accepted type of sex. So there’s this thing called homonormativity. Super scholar Lisa Duggan (2003) uses this term to name LGBTQ+ identities, desires, and lifestyles that are “normafied,” or patterned to fit into mainstream hegemonic society. So yes a person is gay but they also support marriage, capitalism, consumption, military, likely they love kids, and are white and thin and cisgender (also probably wealthy). Think Ellen and Portia. In every way except for their sexual orientation, they glide into mainstream society. Homonormativity is what one of my very clever students calls: “P.S., I’m gay.”

I get wanting to have a homonormative lifestyle. Society constantly tells all of us we should want to be normative, to fit in, to value what the hegemony values, and to be valued by the hegemony. Also, I adore Ellen and Portia. But here’s the key: homonormativity is not queer. I’m drawing on the core definition of queer, not as a noun for sexual or gender orientation but as an adjective and a verb. Queer (adjective) is those identities, desires, and lifestyles that are askew from or out of sync with mainstream society. Queer (verb) is those identities, desires, and lifestyles that actively confront to break down mainstream society. A person who identifies as LGBT and is also homonormative might identify themselves as queer (noun) but are not really queer (adjective and verb).

Saucy scholars: lets put all this together. Sense8 is apparently heavy-handed with the ol’ “gay agenda” (whatever that is). Except the percentage of main LGBT characters is extremely marginal. And the sex they have replicates heterosexual pornography. And it’s within the context of their homonormative relationships. Guillermo Avila-Saavedra (2009) argues that just because gay and lesbian people have more visibility on TV doesn’t mean our media is more progressive. In fact, he argues that if gay and lesbian characters are always homonormative then what society accepts is the “we’re just like you” part and not the queer part.

Bottom line: it’s nice to see 25% of the main characters in Sense8 identify within the LGBT spectrum. And is it nice to see them with their partners, being affectionate and creating their own sexual connections. But don’t let this fool you, Sense8 is not really that queer. So stop writing about it like that, Netflix review section. Focus more on the overstylization. Including this logo:
p11677721_b_v8_abIs that a fucking baby head or something? I just don’t know.

Posted in gender, queer, television | Tagged , | 4 Comments

curious adventures and cautionary tales of a self-made postfeminist

Have you ever eaten too much candy and, although it was delicious, the second you stopped you felt empty and kind of sick and craving more too? That’s how I felt reading Holly Madison’s memoir Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny.

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be veerry quiet. we’re hunting rabbits.

The book is about Madison’s 7-year shared relationship with Hugh Hefner, her starring role on the reality show The Girls Next Door, and the psychological fallout she suffered living at the Playboy mansion and also after extricating herself from that situation. The book was not good. Nevertheless, I consumed it with fervor and then felt terrible immediately afterward.

Processing this strange craving/empty feeling, I wrote to one of my besties: “I feel sorry for her that this was her vapid lived experience, but also sorry for our society that this is what we want to consume so fervently that it made the best seller list.” Highly hypocritical of me; I purchased the damn book specifically because I watched every episode of The Girls Next Door. I am the social consumer. I chose to eat all those jellybeans.

In true academic-bestie style, I got this back: “I guess you could think of books like that as a gateway drug that could eventually lure people into more productive reading. Or think of reading/books as a neutral medium, like television, that has some worthy content and some just for entertainment. I think in the 18th/19th centuries, novels in general were frowned on because the genre of fiction caused too much frivolous excitement rather than somberly educating the youth.”

Thank you bestie, for foregrounding this important idea: it’s not whether a book is “worth” reading, it’s how we think about and evaluate the scenarios and issues presented in the book.

Here’s my evaluation: Madison is a classic postfeminist, but she’s not a successful one. And this is quite unusual because the postfeminist characters we encounter in our media are almost always successful. Postfeminist characters do have flaws and setbacks, but are generally able to “bootstrap” from their “equal opportunities” in education, domesticity, and professional prospects, and excel in the most important postfeminist areas: looking young and hot, “making it” in male-dominated careers, and exuding inner confidence and happiness. Oh, and they’re usually hard-core ass-kickers too. Let’s see a couple familiar postfeminist faces:

No question, Madison is a postfeminist woman too. She aligns herself with and finds value in hegemonic beauty (long, straight hair, large breasts, thin, hairless body). And she explains that she “made herself beautiful” through plastic surgery and consumption of clothing, makeup, and beauty treatments. That could not be more postfeminist! Madison is also intent on climbing the capitalistic success ladder. She’s always looking for ways to improve her social and socioeconomic position through hard work (in her case, hard work is connecting with famous and powerful people who might then open modeling and acting doors for her).

And actually, you could very well read the arc of her memoir as a postfeminist success story: Madison takes herself from humble, small-town Portland (side note: Portland is neither humble nor small) and transforms herself, like her icon Marilyn Monroe, into the object of male desire. She then trades on that desire, translating it into four Playboy covers, a reality TV career, and a starring role in a Las Vegas show. The book ends with her dream wedding at Disneyland after the birth of her first child.

Yet despite her eleventh hour happy ending, the Madison we follow throughout the book is painfully unsuccessful at making postfeminism work for her. Her biggest strategy for success–moving into the Playboy mansion and becoming one of Hefner’s girlfriends–actually cuts her off from career opportunities and also makes her fragile and paranoid. Making herself over as the ideal woman leads to a deep depression and feeling as if she’s lost all individuality. Thus, the main content of the book is not Madison kicking ass and taking names (as the postfeminist woman would do when presented with either opportunity or obstacle). Rather, page after page is Madison recounting the devastating effects of no one complimenting her new haircut or of Hefner telling her she can’t be in Playboy because she doesn’t “photograph well.” Even when she gets out of her legitimately abusive relationship with Hefner, she immediately falls into another romantic relationship and another career path that directly replicates the pitfalls of her Playboy mansion life. In fact, these after-Hefner stories starkly contrast with what we expect from the postfeminist woman: taking charge of her life doesn’t immediately make Madison a powerful, kick-ass success story.

The seemingly surefire methods of constructing the perfect body and advancing career opportunities by being flexible and adaptable—they all backfire on Madison. She doesn’t gain confidence and strength and success by leaving Hefner either. Madison is not a fictional character and these parts of her life really happened. But, frankly, it’s not a narrative we’re used to seeing in our postfeminist characters, or our characters who work the postfeminist steps so hard.

Back to that too much candy feeling. Madison’s memoir explains ad nauseam how injured she was when Hefner didn’t like her red lipstick; when a bodyguard made fun of her Prius; when another Hefner girlfriend (Kendra) refused to wear matching skirts. These are salacious details but they are also annoying: they’re not markers of mental, emotional, or physical success by any means. And they gave me little reason to like or root for Madison. She is no Katniss Everdeen winning  at the hunger games. She is no Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Madison is beautiful and financially stable and well-known, but she is without the fierce confidence and try-anything-and-it-will-work-out success that we expect–we crave–from our postfeminist characters.

Let me be clear: I’m comparing a real person to the unattainable imaginary construct of a postfeminist media character. Of course Madison falls short. We all would. That’s what makes the postfeminist woman so idealized and also such a false construct for gauging our everyday, real successes. So maybe it’s good for me to consume media about a postfeminist woman who fails with postfeminism. And perhaps what I should be thinking about is not Madison’s “vapid lived experience” but why I feel normal or satisfied after consuming properly postfeminist media. Madison’s book was both annoying and intoxicating, and I found that frustrating. But shouldn’t I feel the same when I read a book about an independent ass-kicker who always makes it happen for herself–and does it while looking amazing? Perhaps it’s not stories like Madison’s that should change, but rather my appetite.

Posted in beauty, books, celebrity, culture, gender, postfeminist, reality TV, sexiness

What is “Female-Femmeing” You Ask?

The Saucy Scholar will tell you… via academic article! =======>QEDcover

My new article “Female-Femmeing: a Gender-Bent Performance Practice” just dropped in QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking vol. 2, no. 3 (2015): 1–23. This article illustrates theatrical performances of femininity by female-identified performers that just so happen to pervade the contemporary west coast drag king scene. In the article, I’m like: wait, let’s check this shit out. Also, lets call this drag because it bends hegemonic identities. Werd. Except I use a whole bunch of fancy words.

Click on the above link to read the electronic PDF version, or check it out on the QED/MSU Press website (aka here). And just for good measure, here’s a little old school paperbound taste:
qedAnd yes, there are some theoretical terms and ideas the the article (scholar, obv), but also several mentions of dildos (saucy, obv). Several. I had to consult on proper pluralization. I went with phalli.

Posted in academia, gender, gender-bending

this is not my first campus shooting

Wasn’t I just here? Yes, I was.

Saucy Scholar fans may remember my inaugural post was on the UC Santa Barbara shooting. I was teaching at UCSB, and I had also been a grad student there for five years prior. It was my first campus shooting. It was intense and traumatic to the campus community. It was shocking. It was unexpected. I immediately contacted my students to ask if they were safe and ok.

UCSB held a memorial service at the outdoor soccer stadium. Probably 25,000 people were there. As I was heading to the memorial, I saw a friend sitting at the campus bus stop, waiting to go home. I asked why he wasn’t going to the memorial. He said: “this is not my first campus shooting.” I remembered he was from Virginia Tech.

This morning I have been contacted by many people asking if I am safe and ok. You see, there was a shooting on my campus. The one I currently teach at. Like my friend, I can also now say this is not my first.

Lots of public figures are sending their love and their thoughts and their prayers. I don’t want that. I want outrage. I want shock. I want action. But we don’t do that anymore for campus shootings. They are upsetting but normal. School shootings are no longer aberrations. And they should no longer be unexpected by me.

This is now part of the life of the academic. This must now be part of the pedagogy of professors. In addition to job market advice and tenure advice,  can The Chronicle and The Professor Is In start writing advice columns on ways faculty can deal with this?

This is how I ended that first post, the one on the UCSB shooting:

“I honestly don’t know how to end this. So I won’t. Because this is a conversation I’m going to have to have in every fucking class I teach from now on at UCSB. And it’s going to have to constantly evolve.”

Bingo. Bingo. Here I am again.
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Posted in academia, social media, society, violence | Tagged | 1 Comment

Insurgent: 16 Going on Sexy

Last week, I realized I didn’t know when the next installment of the Divergent film series, Insurgent, was coming out. Turns out, five months ago. The Saucy Scholar cannot account for this unforgivable lapse in pop culture consumption (actually I can: university faculty position). But I’ve watched it now. Spoiler Alert: it’s terrible. The special effects are hokey, key parts of Tris’ and Four’s inner struggles have been changed, and it’s focused way too much around this weird simulation tube chair thing=>Hy7lq-Jvyj4x

But the worst part is the romance between Tris and Four. I understand this is a key part of the books and essential to the plot. In the first film, quite a few love scenes were cut out or glossed over. I like to believe this was related to the production choice of aging the male love interest from 18 to 24. In the book, Tris is 16 and Four is 18; in fact, the significance of this two year age gap comes up repeatedly. In the film, Tris is still 16. And whereas Theo James (who plays Four) is actually 28 and is hard pressed to come off as young as 24, Shailene Woodley (who plays Tris) is actually 23 but has NO PROBLEM looking and acting 16. For example, Woodley makes baby bird squeaking sounds when her character is upset. And, in Insurgent, Woodley’s hair is not the angled bob from the book but a choppy boy cut that makes her look even younger… and kind of like a boy band member.insurgent-movie-review-720x494So what’s my issue? It’s not that Woodley looks boyish or androgynous with short hair. In fact, I like this slightly aesthetically different version of the female super hero ass-kicker. Yes, she’s white and thin and able-bodied and hegemonically beautiful (I did say slightly). But aside from a few plunging necklines and one scene where her bare back is exposed (apparently, in a post-apocalyptic world, people don’t wear bras under their zip-front vests), Tris is not hyper-feminized in that typical way super heroines ususally are…

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You know what’s practical for crime fighting? A pony tail.

Also a plus: if you kind of squint, you could almost read Tris and Four as a male-male couple, or a butch male and someone who presents as genderqueer. By the way, this is actually a resistant media reading technique Nikki Sullivan (2000) calls the “gay gaze”: it’s where you choose to see queer subtext in an overwhelmingly heteronormative piece of media. You know, for spice.

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I know you’re gay gazing.

I also don’t have a ideological issue with the romantic pairing of individuals of differing ages. However, I will point out that in our contemporary Western society, age is used (rightly or wrongly) to gauge maturity, competence, and consent. Tris is under 18, and Four is six years older than 18. So this particular eight-year age difference—16 to 24 rather than, say, 30 to 38—does translate to us as socially significant.

So then, what’s my beef? Saucy readers will be unsurprised to learn that it’s the nonchalant way producers construct a 16-year-old female character as the object of adult male sexual desire. As I’ve discussed before, the postfeminist female figure is an independent ass-kicker—smart and competent—and also super sexy. That super sexy quality is easily identified when others (mainly men) sexually desire her. Karin A. Martin and Emily Kazyak (2009) did a study on children’s G-Rated  films and noted how female protagonists were ideal characters not only when they were awesome, but also when male characters lusted after them. In a nutshell, women are both valued and valuable when men find them sexy. This is a very heteronormative theory because not all women desire men or are the objects of male desire. But our society is very heteronormative, yo.

So we place value on the sexiness of women, and sexiness can be identified in media when male characters lust after or sexually gaze at female characters. Second piece of the puzzle: this value formula is for youthful female bodies. In this context, I mean young. Very rarely in our media culture are older women labeled sexy, feminine, or beautiful because those particular qualities are tied to youthfulness. Evidence: Amy Schumer’s spot-on “Last Fuckable Day” skit. More evidence: every movie where a male protagonist ends up with a woman played by a female actor half his age. So if beauty is tied to youth, and female worth is tied to sexiness, and sexiness is connoted by male desire, then we’re growing a culture that doesn’t bat an eye when very young women and girls are sexualized. Lolita anyone?

Academic rock star Rosalind Gill (2007) talks about the “deliberate sexualization of children (girls)” and “the ‘girlification’ of adult women” in popular media (151). She argues that the valuation of female youth perpetuates a cultural sentiment that it’s normal for female children to be “desirable sexual icons” (ibid). And while the sexualization of young female bodies happens across race and ethnicity (in fact, to a worse extent for Women of Color), when it happens in Insurgent, it further builds Tris into the ideal female figure: she’s white and thin and able-bodied and hegemonically beautiful, and she has value—as evidenced by this adult male sexual interest in her:

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Just your typical 18 year old dude.

Ok, so what’s my point? There are a lot of problems with Insurgent, but I doubt too many will focus on the infantalization and sexualization of the main female character. Why? Because our media has taught us to read older men’s desire for younger female bodies as not just normal, but actually a form of female empowerment. I like this Young Adult trend of centering plots around competent and adventurous young women (Katniss Everdeen is my patronus). But Rosalind Gill astutely warns us “on one hand, young women are hailed through a discourse of ‘can-do girl power,’ yet on the other hand, their bodies are powerfully reinscribed as sexual objects” (163). By portraying Tris as a less-than-adult female while at the same time the object of adult male desire, film producers are reproducing and perpetuating an invisible and insidious cultural trope: female youth is powerful because it’s sexy. Check where empowerment comes from, yo.

*Rosalind Gill, “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10.2 (2007). 147-166.

Posted in culture, film, gender, popular culture, queer, sexiness, young adult | 1 Comment

Call Me… #MediaGettingItWrong About Gender

I know that you know that enough has been written and said about Caitlyn Jenner. 150601134616-bruce-caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-cover-exlarge-169Lots of it good. Some of it sexist. Some definately thought provoking. But I just read this NYT article and, frankly, I’m pissed off. Please add this “woman=vagina=struggle” argument to my Saucy Shit List, which also includes this Feminist Wire argument about how only fucked up people care more about genitals than “chemistry.” These articles are opposite sides of the same coin: both make exclusionary decisions about what is and is not proper behavior, bodies, feelings. Then they use those ideas to explain why people who don’t feel the same are assholes. This is not cool.

Saucy Shit List Exhibit A: this NYT opinion piece called “What Makes a Woman?”* According to Elinor Burkett, Caitlyn Jenner is big fat FAKER because she expresses her womanhood as high femme. 1*WGtVnujaKdbXfq031-BUuABurkett believes Jenner has reduced being a woman to “nonsense” such as wearing thick mascara and a cleavage-boosting corset, and walking around with nail polish until it chips off. What does make a woman? According to Burkett, its a) a vagina and b) the from-birth systemic oppression of vagina-wielders.

Important Point 1: there would be no such thing as trans if our society didn’t divide bodies into two sex categories, and then limit the every move of those bodies to two restrictive genders. If a body’s sex designation didn’t mean shit about that person’s gender identity, then that person would just do whatever the fuck they wanted and identify however the fuck they wanted and that would be that. But its not. One of two genders is thrust onto our bodies when we’re born.

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Actually, while still in utero… enter gender reveal cakes!

That gender is so tightly entwined with our original sex designation that men can’t wear nail polish without getting shit for it, and they can’t use female pronouns and still comfortably identify as men. Woman doesn’t mean vagina. It means having your body inextricably mashed into a bi-gender role.

Important Point 2: Obv gender is a social construction because it can be done by any body (drag queens anyone?). But sex (as in male and female) is also social construction. You heard me. Sure, we all have unique, specific, functioning bodies. But the way we take those bodies and jam them into one of two sex categories is all society. Actually, lots of bodies don’t match up. It’s estimated that 1 in 1000 bodies don’t fit neatly into our bi-sex system. These intersexed bodies have non-binary genital structures, or they don’t have the match among hormones, gonads, and chromosomes we use to determine male or female. Don’t believe me that 1 in 1000 people are intersexed? Let me ask you a question: do you know what everyone’s genitals look like? Everyone in the world? What about everyone’s chromosomes, hormones, and gonads? You test those? And when the people who do see a lot of genitals and do test a lot of genetics—namely the medical community— identify an intersexed child, they do immediate genital surgery and/or pump hormones into the kid, often just weeks after birth. So yes, we make sex.

My dear NYT article, to say vagina=woman is to say that bi-sex social categories are the reality of bodies. Actually, we take lots of different types of bodies and overlay bi-sex onto them. And then we say “now you have a sex designation, do your gender dance!” The social gender dance is, in fact, the way we get to the category of female sex. And Jenner is doing it. Doing it like a boss.

Saucy Shit List Exhibit B: this Feminist Wire College Feminisms piece called “Dating Your Genitals.” Quinn Israel *seems* to take the direct opposite position of Burkett by critiquing those who define their sex, love, or relationship desires according to genitals. The gist is: “in the age of strap-ons, why do genitals matter, and why are certain types of body appearances even important? Those who choose their partners based on this shit (rather than CHEMESTRY) are either slaves to the system or transphobe assholes.”

Ok, this article’s not specifically about Jenner, but it’s a good example of some of the queer activist commentary deriding Jenner for using her money and privilege to present herself as a hegemonic femme white woman. Ie, Jenner is cast as either a slave to the system or an asshole that’s choosing to pass in a way that many trans people can’t, don’t, or won’t.

Important Point 3: If someone really likes flesh-and-blood penis and that’s more important than connection or chemistry or whatever, then fine. If someone has lived their whole life in a sex and gender system and their limited idea about sexuality has become embodied (a part of their identities that actually trigger bodily sensations), then cool. If someone has grown up dreaming about wearing corsets and mascara and nail polish until it chips, then let her do her.

Important Point 4: It bears repeating: Jenner should be able to do whatever the fuck she wants in terms of identity expression. Telling Caitlyn Jenner (or anyone else) how she should or should not/can or cannot do her is the same fucked up shit as our bi-gender and sex culture telling Bruce Jenner he couldn’t wear nail polish till it chipped off, or telling gay people they shouldn’t want to have sex with people who have similar genitals.

My dear Feminist Wire article, your problem shouldn’t be with people wanting a certain type of partner genital makeup or sex act or identity. Just like the problem shouldn’t be with Jenner’s gender choices. Its not identities or expressions or gender or sex or sexuality that’s the problem–its the social structures that rank some of these things over others. Women who exclusively date men with penises are more accepted in our society. Women who put on mascara and a corset and nail polish are more valued in our society. So instead of policing people’s choices, let look for ways to make all partner (or non-partner) choices equally legal and socially valid. And lets look for ways to make Jenner’s high femme equal to those individuals who do not have the desire, money, or access to present themselves in a similar way. And here’s a good place to start: #MyVanityFairCover

* The correct answer is: calling yourself a woman makes you one. The end.

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The Saucy Scholar approves

Posted in #MediaGettingItWrong, celebrity, culture, gender, popular culture, queer, social media, society

Is Taylor Swift Making Bad Blood With Feminism?

Let me tell you a story. I woke up. I checked Facebook. A friend posted Taylor Swift’s new music video, Bad Blood. I watched it. I went on Twitter. Media-scholar-extraordinaire-turned-Buzzfeed-reporter Anne Helen Petersen posted about Bad Blood. Behold the exchange:
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That’s a lot of academic class/pop culture sass packed into 140 characters. So let me take it back a bit. Taylor Swift is one of those “I’m not a feminist oh wait I just learned what feminism is and I’m a feminist” kind of feminists. This is great. We need more feminists defining themselves as feminists (I’m looking at you, Shailene Woodley). In fact, Swift attributes her understanding of feminism and evolution of feminist self-identification to pal Lena Dunham. So what is Bad Blood? It’s a music video full of badass-looking, dangerous-cool fighter women, played by many of Swift’s big Hollywood friends: Cindy Crawford, Mariska Hargitay, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba. And yes, Lena Dunham.*

To recap: Swift is a woman who has publically minted herself feminist. She makes a video filled with famous powerful women known for playing powerful or feminist characters. All the female characters in the video are cool as fuck and dangerous as hell. BY GOD THIS VIDEO IS FEMINIST. Oh wait, no, its not. It’s a “postfeminist girl power montage of skinny girls who think ass-kicking in high heels and big earrings is not a poor idea.”

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Our skin is unprotected from this fire backdrop. But we look amaz

So what does this 140 character Tweet mean exactly? Let’s break it down… 140 character Tweet style!

Postfeminist:
1) There was historical gender inequality but, because of past activism, we no longer need feminism. Needed it, did it, in post world. Yay?
2) Women’s educational and professional barriers are not systemic and so can be overcome with individual hard work. Work harder, ladies!

Girl power:
Female empowerment exemplified via independence, self-sufficiency, and physical strength/violence/ass-kicking. Sisterhood here somewhere too

Montage:
A film sequence of pretty pictures that speeds up time and is generally without substance.

Skinny girls:
Postfeminist woman’s power is tied to the physical ideal: she has a hard body, skinny body, feminine body, light-skinned body. Hairless too:
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Ass-kicking in high heels and big earrings:
1) Postfeminist woman’s power is tied to the social ideal: she is sexy, desirable, consumer of $$ products, and has a “cool girl” attitude.
2) Impractical crime fighting accoutrement:
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Saucy Scholar conclusion: Bad Blood could be worse. And it could be better. See, Bad Blood exemplifies a very surface and superficial understanding of feminism. An ideology that women are empowered when they can ride motorcycles and throw knives, and wear latex outfits and high heels while doing it. This is not feminism. This is postfeminism. Because, sure, Swift is empowered. She’s rich as fuck and famous as fuck and she’s White and skinny and pretty. And yes, she’s called a slut because of her dating practices and people write sexist things about her because her songs are about her personal relationships. But she can overcome this with her money and her celebrity and her hegemonic looks. And all her skinny, pretty, wealthy celebrity friends who populate the video can too.
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But this type of postfeminist sensibility doesn’t exemplify and doesn’t even begin to address a range of feminist issues. For example, women who don’t have the socio-economic status to consume products that would allow them to look awesomely cool. Or bodies will never achieve the hard, sexy, light-skinned ideal, not matter what they do. Or the systemic issue of portraying a woman’s sexuality as an object for entertainment and consumption rather than an expression of her own embodied desires.

I don’t think Bad Blood is harming anyone. Actually, I think it’s kind of fun; I’ve watched it like six times (ok, two of those times were to make GIFs). And Swift has taken what is basically a terrible song and made it into a hit. Bravo. But we shouldn’t think of Bad Blood as anything more than those things. It’s not feminist. It’s just some postfeminist eye candy.

And just FYI, if you take my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies class, this is what you’ll encounter during week ten:
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* Actually, my favorite part of the video was Lena Dunham: she didn’t appear in uber-feminine dress or makeup, and was only shot from the shoulders up, smoking a cigar.

Posted in celebrity, feminism, popular culture, postfeminist, sexiness, social media | 2 Comments

“Now Watch Her Become a Woman…” Sansa and Rape on Game of Thrones

[Warning: discussion of rape, and–clearly–Game of Thrones spoilers]

If you’re into pop culture and/or social media, then you have been inundated with commentary about what went down on the last episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” Specifically, producers decided to add a rape scene. Another one. It was the rape of Sansa Stark.

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Yea, it’s this motherfucker again.

First the internet blew up with people who were outraged. Then the internet blew up with people who felt this outcry was unfounded because—for once—Game of Thrones handled a rape scene with gravity and respect. This is high praise for a show that’s known for salacious, body-bearing scenes of sexual violence. Rather than actually watching Sansa be raped, we watch Theon Greyjoy as he’s forced to witness the rape of a person akin to his little sister. As I’ve discussed before, this is the better way for media producers to portray scenes of sexual violence against women.

I certainly agree that this rape scene could have been—and has been in the past—handled much worse by HBO. So maybe HBO deserves a cookie. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Internet blow up around Game of Thrones is not new. The murder of Ned Stark. The Red Wedding. Joffrey’s demise. These scenes elicited scores of blogs, posts, and articles. But unlike the scenes I’ve just listed, the Sansa rape didn’t happen in George R.R. Martin’s books. Not with Sansa Stark. Rather, it was Sansa’s childhood friend, Jeyne Poole. Poole is a minor character who—after the murder of Ned Stark—is taken and trained as a sex worker, then passed off as Arya Stark and married to Ramsay Bolton. And yes, the consummation scene is scary and upsetting, largely because of how Theon Greyjoy is forced to play a role in it.

Know how I know all this? I’ve read all the Song of Ice and Fire books that Game of Thrones is based on. Yes, all of them. All the way through. And a lot of fucked up shit happens in these books. Rapes. A lot of rapes. I would guestimate hundreds of rapes. This is a conservative guestimate. Last year I was talking to a female friend who had also read the books and I mentioned how I was haunted by some of the rapes and frequently recalled horrific details. And my friend quickly said, “me too, me too.” This is first to highlight the lingering affect rape and sexual violence scenes can have on women. Second, to point out that there are an almost infinite number of rape scenes that Game of Thrones could have chosen from. But this is now the third—yes third—time producers have created a rape of a major female character in addition to those offered by the books.

So rather than debating how HBO handled the scene, I’d like to consider why the scene was added. As of yet, the Sansa in Martin’s books has not been raped. I find this significant because Martin’s not afraid of writing a rape scene and Sansa’s under constant threat of sexual violence. Yet she has—so far—been able to play the game of thrones in such a way so as to avoid this. HBO’s Game of Thrones took that away. Why? Well, one could argue that it was for coherence and consolidation. The Jeyne-Poole-as-Arya plotline is another piece to add to an already complicated puzzle. Or we could join the ranks of Amanda Marcotte and The Happy Feminist and argue that that it shows the “grotesque realities” of power and war. Or we could side with George R.R. Martin himself, who explains that no one was actually raped because Sansa is a fictional character.

But I think these positions miss an important point. When Martin writes rapes into his books, they bother me. A lot. But when HBO adds more of them, they aren’t being true to the books, and I don’t believe they’re trying to be true to the story or the realities of war and power. I think they’re trying to shock and titillate. They’re trying to get us to watch more.

HBO is not Schindler’s List. Don’t get me wrong, many HBO shows are fantastically  complex. But HBO is widely known for attracting viewers with the type of sexualized, gritty, violent content that other networks can’t offer. That’s why on Game of Thrones, Littlefinger tells his diabolically complex and evil stories while prostitutes have sex in the background.

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This was literally the least graphic image I could find of this scene.

When HBO shows scenes of human degradation and sexual abuse, its not so we will realize how horrific this all is, and work to change or prevent it in our own culture. These scenes are marketing tools; interesting and beautiful plotlines laced with titillation, violence, horror, and pleasure. And that’s what Sansa’s rape was. HBO took a beloved (at least by me) young female character and did something horrible to her, for ratings. I agree with “Race for the Iron Throne” super expert Steven Attewell that this scene had no larger purpose because it “did nothing to reveal character, or advance the plot, or critique anything about Westerosi society or about our own conceptions of medieval society that hasn’t already been critiqued.” It was done for ratings.

And I get this media game. Because we’re all talking about it, aren’t we? HBO for the win. But rather than creating more of these horror-rape scenes, HBO producers might as well as have just chosen from the litany of rape scenes already built into the story. And if they don’t—if they make new ones—then I have a hard time saying that this is simply fiction, or simply the reality of war, or simply a proper handling of a rape. It’s a way to get audiences to keep coming back. By offering them new and fresh sexual violence against women.

On an unrelated note, Brienne of Tarth is my motherfucking jam

Posted in books, popular culture, social media, television, violence | 1 Comment

Sexual Violence on TV: First and Foremost It’s Sexual

[warning: this post discusses sexual violence, and also has The Fall and Top of the Lake spoilers!]

I just finished The Fall on Netflix. Gillian Anderson’s a kick-ass lead who doesn’t conform to sexual gender norms. Jamie Dornan’s a creepy-handsome Irish serial killer with adorable children (confusing, I know). And there’s a good amount of sexual violence too, of course.

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Where there are TV dramas, there are scenes of sexual violence. There’s an entire Law & Order franchise about it. Special Victims Unit is about sexually based offenses, and the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies. These are their stories. Bum-bum.

Could I argue this cultural connection has to do with the dramatic horror of sexual violence?* Sure I could. But I’d like to offer another interpretation. TV dramas with sexual violence are prevelant because they’re sexy. The shows aren’t sexy. The sexual violence is. Media producers make it that way.

Let’s bring in Stuart Hall’s theory of encoding/decoding, shall we? Media producers encode shit into media so that we—the viewers—relate, get excited, desire, and most importantly, continue to watch. In contemporary Western culture, a great way to get us invested in a TV show is to populate it with naked bodies. Thin ones that are muscled, and hairless, and beautiful, and light-skinned, and cisgender, and able-bodied. You know, hegemonic bodies. This is the tactic of all of HBO shows, no?

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Exhibit A, B, and C: three people who are likely cold.

This tactic is not new. Burlesque, anyone? Contemporary Burlesque is actually an offshoot of historical U.S. Burlesque, which was an offshoot of U.S. Variety when Variety began transitioning into the family-friendly genre of Vaudeville. Burlesque shows were plays, stories, or a series of tableaus. Did I mention that the predominately White, curvy, women who performed in these shows did so flesh-colored leotards, or in other states of undress? They did. So audiences would get their entertainment, and get their sexy too. And guess what? This method still employed by media producers today!

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Exhibit D: an impractical way to wash your vehicle.

Carl’s Jr. commercials say this: “consumer: pay attention to this ad! We will purchase your attention through the presentation of this woman’s idealized body for your sexual consumption. This is our gift to you. Now go buy our garbage food.” Even if we are not sexually attracted to women’s bodies, society hardcore pushes us to see these types of bodies as universally beautiful and sexy. Something to pay attention to. Something to enjoy.

Wanna know another popular way producers get this product into their shows? Through scenes of sexual violence. These scenes almost always contain a little T&A. Generally, both  T and A is connected to a hegemonically beautiful woman. Who is being sexually victimized. In The Fall, the antagonist targets pretty, dark-haired professional women; and part of his crazy is that he cleans and poses them after he kills them. Did I mention that the bodies are cleaned and posed naked? And that we are treated to shot after shot of this naked body? And that when the cops come to collect the corpse, we get more shots of the victim’s naked, femininely posed body?

Want more evidence that our media encourages us to sexually ogle women as they are being or after they have been sexually victimized? At the 85th Oscar Awards, Seth MacFarlane sang “We Saw Your Boobs,” a song listing instances where MacFarlane (and the rest of the world) got to see the breasts of famous and accomplished female actors. Specifically, he lists four—yes four—instances where he got to see breasts during scenes of rape and sexual violence. He sings that these boob shots “made us feel excited and alive.”

There are two more things I wanna say, then I’ll be done. First, you can show the horror and degradation of sexual violence without also showing the naked body of the victim or survivor. Take another Netflix gem, Top of the Lake. In a flashback, we witness the protagonist—played by Elisabeth Moss—being gang raped. The producers could have shown Moss’ clothing being ripped off, revealing her body, her breasts. Moss is pretty popular, and this would have undoubtedly warranted a line in MacFarlane’s boob song. Instead, we see her trying to get away by running into darkness. We hear her screaming. And we watch her boyfriend laying on the ground after being beaten by the rapists, terrified and unable to help her. It’s a horrific scene. Later, we do see Moss’ breasts. In a consensual sex scene with her boyfriend.

Second, when producers create a scene of sexual violence that simultaneously encourages the ogling of the undressed female body, it trivializes sexual violence. It both normalizes these acts as mundane, and disassociates these acts from the actual people who are victimized. Law & Order: SVU used to be my guilty pleasure. Yes, this show is built around the display or description of bodies during and after acts of sexual violence. T&A with your L&O. But I really didn’t think too much about it. But if you follow The Saucy Scholar, you’ll know there was a shooting at my University last year. It was motivated by misogyny and sexual violence. And they made a Law & Order: SVU about it. I haven’t watched an episode since. I’m literally terrified I will accidently run into this episode. You see, I no longer have the privilege of separating this real act of sexual violence from that which is presented to me in my media.

Producers encode fucked up things into our media. Obv. But Stuart Hall also says that viewers can be active in how they decode their media. That is, we can recognize why unclothed female bodies are displayed so often during rape scenes. We can see how this works to desensitize us to the horror of the act, and encourages a rape culture where sexual violence appears to be a commonplace, thus lesser, violation. And we can be disgusted rather than titillated by this media tactic because of our consciousness about how it affects rape culture, and the affect it has on survivors of sexual violence.

*Just FYI, sexual violence absolutely does not include consensual sex acts such those practiced within BDSM.

Posted in #yesallwomen, culture, gender, popular culture, sexiness, television | 2 Comments

Question o’ the Day: Is Drag Degrading to Women?

Mary Cheney asked why drag queening was acceptable and blackface wasn’t. Then the internet blew up. And RuPaul made a video.

Loyal readers, you may or may not be aware that drag is my jam. And by “my jam,” I mean the subject of my doctoral dissertation. So, wanna know what I think? Check me out talking on Southern California Public Radio’s “Air Talk”!

And just FYI, while I had to keep the language clean–an almost impossible feat for The Saucy Scholar–I did manage to squeeze in a PG rated “genderf-ing.” Enjoy!

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Posted in academia, gender-bending, queer | Leave a comment

Beauty: That’s Some Complicated Shit

A few days ago, this was leaked into the yaw of the interwebs:

beauty... thats some complicated shit

People are going ape-shit over this image of Cindy Crawford because it’s not airbrushed or digitally altered (like 99.999% of media images of women are). Without them fancy computers smoothing out her cellulite and body lines, evening out her damaged skin, getting rid of age and wear from children, she looks normal… if your definition of normal is a very thin and very muscular White woman wearing black lingerie and some type of jeweled microphone earpiece.

The Saucy Scholar is not so much interested in exposing the practice of airbrushing or raging against media-built images of women (if I was, I would analyze this shit):

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so… much… problematic.

Instead, I’m getting into beauty. Specifically, why ladies gotta’ have it, and why its such a fucking insult to say that Crawford—or any woman—is not beautiful. See, the overwhelming majority of interweb comments refer to Crawford in this picture as “simply stunning,” a “beautiful woman,” “honest and gorgeous,” and “looking amazing.”* So nice of them to say, right? Well, only kind of right. Readers, this is where shit gets complicated.

Beauty is a social construct. Obv, we construct it on, over, and into our bodies every day! Makeup, hair stuff, well-fitting garments, trendy glasses—these beauty products take what we got and help it conform to idealized or prized social standards. While looking our “best” might not be looking identical, it generally falls into looking feminine or masculine, fit, trendy, moneyed, and clean.

Not everyone has to do so much body work, because some people just look ideal. In fact, it’s the “ideal” that’s the construct. 60 years ago, beautiful women were curvy. Now, beautiful women are fit. 100 years ago, having pale white skin was a mark of beauty—that is, a mark of class and the leisure and not having to do manual labor. Today, white skin is still ideal, but its tanned white skin—that is, a mark of class and the leisure of being able to lay out on beaches all fucking day. We could look at other times and places and see that what’s considered beautiful is very different from either curvy or fit or white bodies. But the take away is that standards of beauty are socially constructed. And some bodies naturally rise to the top of these social standards. With enough time and money, some bodies can be constructed into them. Some bodies cannot and never will fit.

So it’s these arbitrarily-made-yet-so-fucking-significant beauty standards that every body is measured against. And I’m not saying that Crawford can’t be beautiful, because beauty can be constructed, especially by thin, white, wealthy women with access to airbrushing technology. It’s that Crawford’s unretouched image falls short of the narrow and circumscribed criteria our society deems beautiful.

So dare I say she’s not beautiful in this image? NO, I DARE NOT! To say a woman is not beautiful does not condemn our narrow and circumscribed beauty standards. Rather, saying a woman is not beautiful robs her of dignity, self-worth, and the essence of her very woman-ness. See, in contemporary western society, women are beautiful if they are feminine. If a woman is not beautiful, she is often called ugly, disgusting, fat, mannish, or any number of things that mean not feminine. Femininity is intimately connected to beauty, which is intimately tied to our idea of what a woman is. Therefore, beauty is one of the prime ways women are taught to feel value and worth as women (sexiness is in there too, but just go ahead and read every other one of my posts for that).

Not all women rank high in beauty standards, but all women should have the opportunity to feel value and worth, right? So how have we decided to fix this? Expand beauty standards…which should allow more women to feel beautiful…which should allow more women to feel value and worth! This is exemplified by the Dove Real Beauty campaign:

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We’re not cold at all!

But there are two really big issues here:

Issue #1: oh yes, by all means, lets expand beauty standa….woah, not too fucking much there! When we expand beauty standards, its true that we open a door, but it’s a doggie door. Huzzah for Crawford for showing us a real woman has cellulite and wrinkles and damaged skin! Apparently, these real women are also very thin and very White and very fit and very feminine. And hairless. And sexy. And able-bodied. And have straight white teeth and nice hair. And the money to buy beauty products like Dove. When we expand the parameters of beauty, we allow more women to feel beautiful. But not many more.

Issue #2: why do I have to feel beautiful? Lets transpose beauty for skiing. I can’t ski, but the ability to ski is not tied into my value and self-worth. If I can’t ski, I probably have some other quality or skill which society deems just as good. Yet women must feel beautiful to feel they have value and worth. Other qualities such as intelligence are good to feel too, but they can’t replace beauty. In fact, admitting you are not beautiful is the greatest fucking sin because it shows how little you value yourself.

Check out this commercial for the Dove Real Beauty campaign. I guess it’s intended to show women how they judge themselves too harshly against impossible beauty standards. But it really shows how taboo it is for women to feel they are not beautiful. FYI ladies, not only are you being policed for not physically conforming to beauty standards, but also for feeling bad about yourself for not physically conforming to beauty standards. This. Is. Bullshit.

The Saucy Scholar is about to get real here. When I’m alone in my house, I don’t feel beautiful. Because I’m not. I haven’t constructed beauty onto my body yet. Furthermore, I’m not yet being measured by social beauty standards (unless my cat is silently judging me??). But I’m not ugly either. When I’m alone in my house, I’m not part of that beauty/ugly system. The concept of beauty—and feeling beautiful—comes alive via social interactions: others reading and judging you based on beauty criteria, or you thinking of yourself based on those social interactions and social knowledges.

I don’t want to have to feel like I have to feel beautiful. I don’t want to have to be flattered when a man tells me I’m beautiful. I want to be able to tell people that I don’t think I’m beautiful and not have them feel pity for me. I want to say I’m smart instead of beautiful and have that be a worthy trade off. I want to be able to say that Crawford is not beautiful without it being a huge insult to her identity as a woman.

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Saucy unconstructed… Saucy constructed

*The interwebs refers to the Twitterverse, and online entertainment news sites such as Yahoo News, Eonline, and Marie Claire.

Posted in beauty, celebrity, culture, gender, society | Leave a comment

Our Girls on Fire: Successful Young Adult Protagonists

As The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I settles into its theatrical sovereignty, I’ve been reflecting on how centralized fictional Young Adult (YA) heroines have become to our lexicon of female empowerment. Katniss Everdeen is the quintessential girl role model because we want girls to kick ass and take names! (At least, we want girls to strive to be the ass-kicking and name-taking type.)

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I’m quintessential!

Under a heavy-handed cultural push for YA protagonists like Katniss to be female role models, there lies an insidious cultural ideology that goes by the name of postfeminism. In my biz (the teaching students biz and the blogging biz) I spend a lot of time talking about how postfeminism has permeated the female success story, and how it’s a dirty faker: its sexism and sexual objectification wrapped up in the liberalism of girl power. We love Katness because she’s a badass female. We are also invited to love Katniss because she’s a badass female who’s sexually wanted.

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It should come as no surprise to you, dear readers, that I am a YA fiction junkie. I’ve read The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Uglies series. Aside from each having been (or rumored to be) the next book-turned-blockbuster franchise, these YA series share a common feature: a scrappy, tenacious, sixteen-year-old girl protagonist who is, ahem, not pretty. Yes, even Katniss.

Suzanne Collins describes Katniss as underdeveloped and malnourished. In Divergent, Veronica Roth characterizes Tris as plain, flat chested, and scrawny. As for Scott Westerfeld’s protagonist Tally, well, he named his book The Uglies.

THIS SHOULD BE AWESOME! In the midst of our culture ranking women’s beauty and sexualizing their bodies at ever-younger ages, it should rock that some of the most popular female characters don’t have beautiful faces or curvy figures. Unattractive-yet-awesome protagonists mean that girls who don’t feel pretty can relate to these characters. Moreover, it enables girls and young women to place value in traits like tenacity, problem solving, and an adventurous spirit. Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in the hunger games, Tris chooses to become a Dauntless initiate, and Tally treks through hundreds of miles of backcountry to find her friend. These qualities as not only valuable in the stories, its clear that we should value them.

This should be awesome. But Katniss, Tris, and Tally don’t stay not pretty, they get makeovers. Katniss is stripped of her body hair, her scars are removed, and she’s puffed into a Capital dream. Plain and modest Tris is made to look more Dauntless with some shoulder-baring dress action, dark eyeliner, and untamed hair. I mentioned that Scott Westerfeld named his first book The Uglies. His second book is The Pretties. These makeovers don’t take away from the ass-kicking and name-taking qualities of the characters. In fact, their makeovers make them more awesome because they get noticed a lot more for their badass-ness. But that’s a problem. See, there’s a very popular mainstream belief that women have it all—that is, they have achieved ideal social value and worth—when they kick ass and take names, and they do it while wearing Louboutins.

Lets review postfeminism, shall we? Postfeminism is the idea that we’ve already attained gender equality (hooray?). It goes a little something like this: “if women have the same shot at education and jobs, then they have the same shot at success.” It becomes more complicated when we define what success is. Donald Trump is successful because he’s got power, he’s got money, and he rules the boardroom (at least on TV). The postfeminist woman is successful because she’s got power, she’s got money, she rules the boardroom and, oh yea, she’s super fucking hot. She’s not Hilary Clinton. Don’t get me wrong, Clinton’s got some mad power, but we rarely hear that she’s an ideal female figure.

It’s not the prettification of the YA protagonists that I object to per se, it’s how we are invited to see the makeover as a step in their becoming the whole package of success. Successful women are awesome, they are pretty, and, most importantly, they inspire sexual desire.

News flash: femininity is tied to beauty and beauty is tied to sexiness. A while back I wrote about how this costume…

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…reflects a pervasive postfeminist trope: smart ladies get PhDs; successful ladies get PhDs while bringing the sexy. In contemporary U.S. society, women are valued—and expected to feel self-value—by being sexualized. This is why it’s mandatory that I smile and thank some creep on the street who catcalls at me and tells me I’m pretty: he’s just given me the ultimate compliment.

The badass YA protagonist becomes the real deal of female empowerment and success when her makeover coincides with (better yet triggers) male romantic interest. Pretty Tally gets a Pretty boyfriend. Capital Katniss suddenly becomes the public recipient of Peeta’s (heretofore private) longings. And it’s not until Tris’ makeover that Four feel compelled/at liberty to drunkenly stagger over, press his lips to her ear, and whisper “you look good.” This confront-compliment is creepy on many levels: it’s lobbed at her by a drunk man, an older man, a man who is her teacher, and a man who has power over her future. But rather than reading this interaction as creepy, we’re invited to see it as Tris sees it: a romantic endorsement of her desirability, both sexual and social.

A trope is a recurring media theme that circulates around long enough to infiltrate our reality. One kick-ass female protagonist who gets a makeover and becomes the “the whole package” of sexy, feminine empowerment probably won’t influence girls and young women. But postfeminist messages about female success circulate across books, movies, and TV. This accumulates. So we might notice how Katniss and Tris and Tally are kicking ass and taking names, but we begin not to notice how their strength and cleverness are only precursors to their finished selves, the sexy and sexually desired ones. We don’t want classic Disney Princesses to be role models anymore because they’re unattainably femme and they’re obsessed with male romantic attention. Katniss kicks ass, yes, and and she’s pretty, and she’s the object of two men’s romantic attentions. I heart Katniss Everdeen, I do. But sometimes the liberal characters we pat ourselves on the back for valuing are not as valuable as we want them to be.

Posted in culture, gender, popular culture, postfeminist, sexiness, young adult | 1 Comment

Guest Post at Lawyers, Guns & Money: “riots” is racist

I’ve written a guest post for Lawyers, Guns, & Money on words we’re using to describe the shit going down in Ferguson. Riot versus revolt. Its not your usual Saucy Scholar fare, but you will find at least one reference to The Hunger Games.  Check it out!

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Season’s greetings.. from the militarized police force suppressing protests against police brutality!

Posted in culture, race | Leave a comment

This is Exactly How I Looked When I Earned my PhD

I worked four years as an Undergrad, two as a Master’s student, five as a PhD. After those eleven years of hard work, this is exactly what I wanted to look like when I graduated. Sexy.

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Loyal readers might think this post will attend to the sexism and racism imbedded in costumes that allow privileged bodies to put on the mask of minority (or other marginalized) people for the night, have a good laugh, and then reinscribe their privileged status by taking it all off the next day.

Nope. If you want that lecture, come to the class I teach every October about how cross-gender and cross-race costumes play on and perpetuate the ways our society ranks women and people of color. Or watch this hilarious Daily Show about “sexy” Halloween costumes.

Today, the Saucy Scholar is talking about the relationship between women and postfeminist models of success. Or, to put it plainly, why the fuck a PhD isn’t sexy on its own.

Lets review postfeminism, shall we? Postfeminism is the idea that we are beyond the need for feminists/feminist actions because we’ve already reached gender equality. Hooray! Rosalind Gill (2007) and Amy Adele Hasinoff (2008) describe how postfeminism perpetuates the belief that every woman has the same opportunity to “make it” and also that every woman defines “making it” the same way. Lets look at an example of making it, shall we?

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Its so fun to be us!

Why are these ladies postfeminist icons? Because they have equal opportunities in education and jobs, because they have money from their education and jobs, and because they use their education, jobs, and money to develop an awesome lifestyle. But most importantly, they do all this shit while still being sexy. Damn Sexy. And please note, Carrie and Co. are not sexy because they feel good about themselves or their accomplishments per se, but because they have attained/maintained the socially ideal female body—thin, white, groomed, toned, made up. Sexy.

And here’s the postfeminist catch. Women are not successful just because they’re in the boardroom, but because they’re in there while maintaining their sex appeal, youthful appearance, and hard body. This is whole package of postfeminist success.

If ladies want this package, ok cool. Its certainly a lot of effort and labor, and some women can’t achieve this because of their class, race, ability, etc. It also perpetuates the idea that women’s bodies are sexy when they replicate what Gill calls “the heterosexual male fantasy found in pornography” (152).* But that’s not really my point. My point is that women necessarily have to engage in sexy to be fully successful. For women, success is not just defined by power (like for Donald Trump) or intelligence (like for Stephen Hawking), or position (like for Barack Obama). For the postfeminist woman, full and total success is defined by her power, intelligence, position AND her sexy. The gold high heels type.

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Still delicious

So lets unpack this costume. Its not just “sexy co-ed” or even “sexy BA” (which would have sufficiently replicated the “sexy schoolgirl/college girl gone wild” trope I think it was aiming for). This costume takes what should be—and is—a really major accomplishment for any person, the conferral of a Doctorate, and layers over it the other essential markers of female success: legs, boobs, high heels. The sexy.

But Saucy, you say, its just a fucking Halloween costume! True, no one is saying I gotta’ get in this costume. Yet this costume nonetheless represents a pervasive idea and, as I tell my students, Halloween might appear to be but is not a space or time apart from real life. Halloween costumes play on and perpetuate many ideologies we hold as fundamental truths about bodies, behavior, and value. And the sexy PhD costume represents this truth: yes, I’m successful because I’ve got a PhD and a university teaching position. And yes, how I present myself—whether or not that is sexy—shouldn’t factor into if/how I’ve “made it.” But it does. It does. A woman with a PhDs is successful, but a woman with a PhD who is also sexy is the ultimate success story. This is how I know:

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*Rosalind Gill, “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10.2 (2007). 147-166.

Posted in gender, postfeminist, sexiness, society | 2 Comments